Electricity is a powerful tool, but it can also be a dangerous one. It’s important to separate fact from fiction when dealing with electricity and electrical installations of all kinds. Understanding proper electrical safety is just one part of electrical training. Here are a few common myths and facts about electrical safety in the workplace.
Myth #1: Electric shock from a current of 3 milliamperes (mA) is harmless.
Truth: If directly connected to an energized part, the human body will conduct electricity, allowing a current to flow from the contact point to an exit point, such as the ground. Even at levels as low as three to 10 mA, shock from the current can cause indirect injuries by causing involuntary muscular reactions leading to bruises, fractures and even death from collisions or falls.
Myth #2: Only high voltage lines are dangerous.
Truth: Electric current, rather than voltage, is the real danger. The electric service going into a house or building may carry from 100 to 200 amps, which can injure or kill a person. For this reason, never touch or go near a power line, even if it is downed—it could still be live, and could send an arc current up to 30 feet away.
Myth #3: All power lines are insulated.
Truth: A majority of power lines are uninsulated, and those that are insulated may have become degraded due to weather and other factors. Assume that no power line is safe to go near.
Myth #4: Rubber shoes and gloves can insulate from electric shock.
Truth: Everyday rubber-soled shoes are made of a mix of rubber and other materials, which do not provide full protection from electric current. Only voltage-rated rubber insulating gloves and shoes that are listed as dielectrically safe can protect against electrocution.
Myth #5: Wood is an insulator and wooden ladders cannot conduct electricity.
Truth: Wood is a poor conductor but it can conduct electricity, especially when wet or when it has metal brackets. Using a wooden ladder when working with live electrical wiring is not a guarantee of safety. Additional guidelines, such as grounding all equipment, wearing voltage insulated gloves, and only working with de-energized circuits should be followed.
Myth #6: Wearing the proper level of personal protective equipment (PPE) is the best way to maintain safety when working on electrical equipment.
Truth: Proper training and following safe job procedures, such as lock-out-tag-out (LOTO), in which the equipment is de-energized and locked out, is a much more effective way to maintain the safety of those working on electrical equipment.
Myth #7: Voltage rated gloves will protect from electric shock.
Truth: Electrical safety gloves for working on live equipment come in different categories, depending on the voltage exposure level, as well as the ozone resistance level. In order to maintain protection, the gloves must be maintained properly, regularly tested for resistance to AC or DC voltage, and must be inspected for damage and the presence of holes by inflating them before each use.