Electricity is basic to modern life, but when it comes to workplace safety, working electricity can present serious danger. Here’s an introduction to what you need to know about working safely around electrical hazards.
Workplace Safety: Who is most at risk?
Water well drillers, construction workers, engineers, electricians, electronic technicians, and strength line workers all work directly with electricity. Others, such as office workers and sales people, work with it indirectly but can nevertheless be exposed to electrical hazards. Perhaps because it has become such a familiar part of our daily life, we tend to overlook the hazards electricity poses and fail to treat it with the respect it deserves.
Electricity has long been recognized as a serious workplace danger, exposing employees to electric shock, electrocution, burns, fires, and explosions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, electrical injuries have been responsible for an average of 320 deaths and more than 4000 injuries involving days away from work yearly in the last decade in the United States. Electrical hazards are the second leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry, killing an average of 143 construction workers each year. What makes these statistics more tragic is that most of these fatalities could have been easily avoided.
Workplace Safety: What are OSHA electrical safety standards?
OSHA standards cover many electrical hazards in many different industries. OSHA’s general industry electrical safety standards are published in Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 1910.302 by 1910.308-Design Safety Standards for Electrical Systems, and 1910.331 by 1910.335-Electrical Safety-Related Work Practices Standards. OSHA’s electrical standards are based on the National Fire Protection Association Standards NFPA 70, National Electric Code, and NFPA 70E, Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces.
OSHA standards focus on the design and use of electrical equipment and systems. The standards cover only the exposed or operating elements of an electrical installation such as lighting, equipment, motors, machines, appliances, switches, controls, and enclosures, requiring that they be constructed and installed to minimize workplace electrical dangers. Also, the standards require that certain approved testing organizations test and certify electrical equipment before use in the workplace to ensure it is safe.
Workplace Safety: How can you protect yourself against electrical hazards?
Most electrical accidents consequence from one of the following three factors:
- Unsafe equipment or installation
- Unsafe ecosystem
- Unsafe work practices.
Some ways to prevent these accidents are by the use of insulation, guarding, grounding, electrical protective devices, and safe work practices. In addition, it is vital that you consistently follow all of the company’s lockout/tagout procedures.