January 10, 2022

Take Your T.I.M.E. to Avoid Electrical Hazards

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When working around live electricity or with powerful electric equipment, there are potentially serious hazards. Occupations such as electricians, engineers, and lineman, to name a few, may be more exposed to these harms. 

In fact, The Center for Construction Research and Training reports that electrocutions are the fourth leading cause of death among construction workers in the United States.* The hazards are serious, but there are preventative measures designed to protect all people involved. By taking your T.I.M.E. and following the simple principles listed below, you can help prevent electrical-related accidents. 

Train Employees Properly 

Proper electrical training programs are necessary for overall employee safety, and an established electrical safety policy provides the necessary guidance. Both company leaders and employees share the responsibility for identifying and understanding electrical hazards and safety.  

Darren Kimball, LWCC’s Lead Safety Services Consultant, suggests that companies’ electrical safety policies should cover these basic practices:

  • Lockout and tagging of conductors and parts of electrical equipment
  • De-energizing circuits and equipment safely
  • Verifying that the equipment has been de-energized
  • Re-energizing circuits or equipment properly

Inspect for Potential Electrical Risks

When dealing with electrical safety, it’s important to know exactly what kind of risks exist. This can include working with or near generators, power lines, charged equipment, extension cords, and other voltage exposure. Inspecting a workplace or job site for potential electrical harm can help identify risks of injury from electricity. 

Darren provides suggestions of what to look for when inspecting a work site. He indicates that the hazards that are the most frequent causes of electrical injuries are as follows:

  • Contact with power lines 
  • Lack of ground-fault protection
  • Equipment not used in manner prescribed 
  • Improper use of extension and flexible cords

Meet to Discuss Employee Safety 

Companies should host regular meetings to cover electrical hazard identification and electrical safety controls. Discussions about safety are even more important when you consider the data. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics CFOI Research File, an average of 143 construction workers are killed each year by contact with electricity.** 

Meetings to discuss the safety of employees around electricity can cover anything from pre-planning, hazard assessment, proper tools/equipment, proper procedures, and PPE–all in an attempt to protect employees from electrocution as best as possible.  Additionally, incidents offer opportunities to learn. LWCC Safety Services Manager Damian Simoneaux describes some specific examples of incidents that can be avoided with proper electrical safety education.

“We’ve encountered a number of workplace incidents in which electrical safety meetings can further educate employees of safety practices to reduce accidents,” says Damian. “Some exposures included incidents such as a roofer touched a wire while on the roof, a contractor in an aerial lift made head contact with a power line, a dump truck hit a power line with a bed in an upright position, or even the use of an extension cord in a wet environment.”

Equip to Engage Safely

The right use of personal protection equipment (PPE) can help keep the workplace safer, especially when the line of work involves close contact with electrical components or equipment. For instance, when working in an aerial lift, on overhead wires, at a construction site, or around switchboards, transformers, and other high-voltage areas, all employees should be equipped with the correct PPE to provide ample protection.

The following pieces of PPE are some of the most frequently used for electrical work:

  • Insulated Gloves – a crucial component of PPE, insulated gloves prevent electricity from entering the hands if contact is made with an exposed wire, short circuit, or other.
  • Insulated Matting – a protective layer between a worker and the floor, insulated matting helps prevent electricity from traveling up from the floor and into the body.
  • Insulated Ladders – a ladder with insulation is key because it won’t transmit electricity into the person using it if the ladder accidentally touches a live electrical wire.
  • Rescue Rods – these tools are used to pull an electrocution victim to safety or push the source of electricity away instead of rushing into a dangerous situation to save them. 
  • Voltage Detectors – even when a power source is removed, electricity can still exist. A voltage detector shows the level of electricity remaining to protect employees.

LWCC Safety Services

LWCC is committed to a safe and productive work environment. A variety of safety resources are available to our policyholders free of charge including online training sessions, educational videos, and more. LWCC policyholders can cultivate a culture of safe driving by reaching out to our experienced team of Consultants on Call for recommendations and assistance.  

*Michael McCann, PhD, CIH, Director of Safety Research at Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR).
**U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics CFOI Research File

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