Active jobsites are prime locations for electrical hazards. From partially-installed wiring systems to webs of extension cords, you and your crew face a variety electrical hazards on the job. Electrical hazards on worksites are so common that they earned two places on OSHA’s 2015 top 10 safety violations list with general electric hazards landing in 10th position and wiring methods holding the eighth position. Statistics show that from 1980-1992 there were over 5,000 workers fatally electrocuted on the job, and 40% were workers in the construction industry. While not all electrocutions are fatal, the long-term effects include serious burns with secondary risks of infection, permanent nerve damage and neurological disorders. Use these electrical safety tips to help you and your crew minimize electrical hazards at the workplace.
1. Prevent accidental electrical contact.
Jobsites are often busy with multiple crews of different trades working around each other at the same time. There are two simple precautions to take to prevent accidental electrical contact:
- De-energize electrical components. If an electrical system is not in use, then it does not need to be energized. Keep the power shut off until it is absolutely necessary.
- Create a barrier. Install insulation equipment around electrical components, like rubber mats and conduit. Hang signage to notify workers of areas with electrical hazards.
2. Use approved equipment.
Always use the proper equipment to prevent contact with electrical current when working around energized components. Use insulated tools that prevent the flow of electricity in the event they come in contact with a live wire.
Bonus tip: Choose only certified electricians to install or perform maintenance on electrical systems. They know which electrical tools to use and the right equipment to install, like receptacles, outlet boxes, switches, relays and fuses.
3. Know what causes electric arc.
When an electrical pathway is disrupted, the current will discharge violently through the air to the nearest conductor in a phenomena known as electric arc. This electrical discharge is destructive, potentially fatal and likely to cause severe injuries. Prevent electric arc by having a certified electrician inspect electrical equipment for conditions that could increase the risk of arc fault, which include:
- Faulty installation
- Corroded insulation
- Dust and moisture
4. Wear the right protective gear.
Supply your crew with protective apparel to reduce the risk of injury from electrical hazards. Make sure they are wearing insulated and approved head protection to avoid contact with overhead wires. Require face protection and eye protection to be worn to minimize injury from arc blast, and wear insulated hand protection to stop the flow of electrical current if contact is made with energized equipment.
Bonus tip: Create an emergency contact information list to be readily available for all workers, and always keep first aid supplies on the job to treat minor injuries.