According to Electrical Safety Foundation International, the US workforce experienced 1,900 nonfatal electrical injuries and 166 fatalities in 2019. Safety for electricians and other employees is of great concern, given the often severe nature of electrical accidents. Many electrical injuries are avoidable, resulting from error in judgement, poor maintenance practices, or a lack of electrical safety training.
What are the Three Main Causes of Electrical Accidents?
Three factors affect electrical safety more than any others. they include:
- Working on unsafe equipment
- Unsafe work environments
- Unsafe work performance
Unsafe Equipment and Electrical Accidents
Improperly installed or maintained electrical equipment greatly increases the risk of electrical accidents. For safe operation, all equipment must be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions and used within its labelled capacity. Matching equipment to load expectations is an important aspect of electrical safety that should be performed by a qualified electrician.
All electrical conductors, components, and equipment used in the workplace must be considered acceptable by OSHA. This means components must be marked as tested by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory.
Proper guarding to enclose equipment helps prevent accidental contact with live components. To reduce the risk of electrical accidents, equipment with exposed parts running on fifty volts or more must be located in areas only accessed by authorized personnel.
Grounding creates a low resistance path electrical current can take to the earth to prevent the dangerous buildup of volts. When properly designed and combined with electrical safety training, grounding reduces the risk of electrical accidents.
The proper use of circuit protection devices such as GFCIs, circuit breakers, and fuses, is essential for the safety of electricians. Circuit protection devices stop the flow of electricity should equipment short circuit and in the event of overloads or ground faults.
Unsafe work environments increase the risk of electrical accidents. Water, rain, and wet conditions have negative effects on electrical safety. Cluttered workspaces increase the risk of accidents whether or not electricity is involved. Missing equipment guards, overhead power lines, and the use of extension cords can also contribute to an unsafe electrical environment.
Unsafe Work Performance
All employees who work with electricity should receive proper electrical safety training. Most electrical accidents are preventable with the right training and consistent application of safe work practices such as:
- De-energizing equipment before maintenance and inspections,
- performing preventative maintenance on electrical equipment and systems,
- regular inspection of electrical tools,
- caution when working near live wires,
- using lockout/tagout procedures to prevent accidental electrical equipment startup,
- use and maintenance of appropriate personal protective equipment.
No workplace can completely eliminate the possibility of electrical accidents. With the right training, properly maintained equipment, and an awareness of what constitutes an unsafe electrical environment, however, preventable accidents can be avoided.