Electrical Safety in the Workplace

Posted on: 11 May, 2021 | Reading Time: 4 mins read

Electricity is imperative for efficient functioning in daily life, both at home and at work. It is an important source of energy, which gives power to equipment, machinery, lights, tools and innumerable other items that we use on a daily basis. To be able to effectively function and allow for the most production from your employees one requires having safe and functional electricity within the workplace.

 

Today every workplace operates on electricity, so workplace electrical injuries are a real threat in any location. All electrical systems used in the industrial sphere have the potential to cause serious harm, especially if improperly used or maintained.

What are the types of injuries that can result from electrical currents?

There are four main types of injuries. These injuries can happen in various ways:

1) Electrocution (fatal)

People get injured when they become part of the electrical circuit. Humans are better conductors of electricity compared to the earth (the ground we stand on). This means that if there is no other easy path, electricity will flow through our bodies. This could prove dangerous, sometimes even fatal.

2) Electric shock

Direct contact with exposed energized/live conductors or circuit parts can cause shock. When electrical current travels through our bodies, it interferes with the normal electrical signals between our brain & muscles (e.g., heart may stop beating properly, breathing may stop, or muscles may spasm).

3) Burns

Electric faults can cause fires. A fire or explosion where electricity is the source of ignition could result in a potentially flammable or explosive atmosphere, e.g. in a spray paint booth could result in burns

a) Thermal burns include burns from heat generated by an electric arc. Flame burns can result from materials that catch on fire from heating or ignition by electrical currents.

b) Contact burns from being shocked can burn internal tissues while they leave only very small injuries on the outside of the skin.

c) Ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) light emitted from the arc flash can result in eye damage.

d) An arc blast can lead to physical injuries, collapse your lungs, or create noise that can damage hearing.

4) Falls

A startle reaction or muscle contractions can cause a person to fall from a ladder, aerial bucket or scaffold. The fall can result in serious injuries.

Fortunately, it is possible to prevent most of the electrical hazards with a little caution and regular checks.

GUIDELINES for working with ELECTRICITY

  • Ensure that all electrical appliances are switched off at the end of every working day.
  • Ensure that all electrical equipment is de-energized before it is cleaned, tested, serviced or repaired.
  • Don’t forcefully plug an appliance into an outlet if it doesn’t fit.
  • Clearly identify potential electrical hazards, such as electrical panels, with appropriate safety signs and maintain a clearance of at least 3 feet from all electrical panels.
  • Place a cover or guard to exposed electrical components or wires.
  • Do not work close to power lines.
  • Follow the distances recommended by jurisdiction and/or utility companies.
  • Inspect portable cord-and-plug connected equipment, extension cords, power bars, and electrical fittings for damage before each use.
  • Pay attention to the warning signs. Equipment may heat up, spark, smoke or make weird noise; identify the signs and immediately take it out of service.
  • Repair or replace damaged equipment immediately.
  • Ensure that the current and safety devices are properly functioning and are not tampered with.
  • Use only equipment that is double-insulated and properly grounded.
  • Only use electrical equipment that is approved by a national testing laboratory.
  • Always tape extension cords to walls or floors when necessary.
  • Do not use nails and staples because they can damage extension cords and cause fire and/or shocks.
  • Know where the panel and circuit breakers are located in case of an emergency.
  • Label all circuit breakers and fuse boxes clearly.
  • Fixed electrical equipment should have a clearly identified switch to cut off power in an emergency
  • Do not block access to panels and circuit breakers or fuse boxes.
  • Ensure that there is enough space around the circuit or the electrical equipment, to maintain or operate it.
  • Use extension cords or equipment that is rated for the level of amperage/wattage that is being used.
  • Always use the correct size fuse. Replacing a fuse with one of a larger size can cause excessive currents in the wiring or even start a fire.
  • Do not clean electrical equipment with flammable or toxic solvents.
  • Be aware that unusually warm or hot outlets or cords may be a sign that unsafe wiring conditions exists.
  • Unplug any cords or extension cords from these outlets and do not use until a qualified electrician has checked the wiring.
  • Eliminate Octopus Connections
  • Ensure that socket outlets are not overloaded.
  • Ensure that two extension cords are not plugged together.
  • Do not disconnect power supply by pulling or jerking the cord from the outlet. Pulling the cord causes wear and may cause a shock.
  • Always use ladders made with non-conductive side rails.
  • Place halogen lights away from combustible materials such as curtains/cloths.
  • Halogen lamps can become very hot and could cause a fire.
  • Ensure that workers remove all metal jewellery and accessories before operating any electrical equipment.
  • Make sure that exposed receptacle boxes are made of non-conductive materials.
  • Do not use portable cord-and-plug connected power tools if the guards are removed.
  • Do not touch a person or electrical apparatus in the event of an electrical incident. Always disconnect the power source first.
  • Never try to rescue another person if you are not trained to do so.
  • Risk of electric shock is greater in areas that are wet or damp.
  • Ensure that the electrical equipment isn’t located in a hazardous environment, like one which is damp or wet or where it is exposed to flammable gases/liquids, etc.
  • Also do not use electrical equipment or appliances with wet hands
  • Contact a qualified electrician if you are unsure or to correct any wiring errors.
  • Carry out preventative maintenance
  • Ensure that electrical installations are installed and maintained by a competent person and inspected and tested regularly.
  • This should include an appropriate system of visual inspection and, where necessary, testing. By concentrating on a simple, inexpensive system of looking for visible signs of damage or faults, most of the electrical risks can be controlled.
  • The frequency of inspections and any necessary testing will depend on the type of installation, how often it is used, and the environment in which it is used.
  • Users can help by reporting any damage or defects they find.
  • Add a badge to your website or intranet so your workers can quickly find answers to their health and safety questions.

Proper employee training plays a crucial role in avoiding electrical injuries at work.

Ensure that people who are working with electricity are competent to do the job. Even simple tasks such as wiring a plug can lead to danger – ensure that people know what they are doing before they start.

Electrical safety signs and labels provide key information for employees and visitors to help keep everyone safe and prevent workplace electrical injuries.

 

A safe work place is crucial and ensuring that you have the right safety procedures and policies for things such as working at heights, first aid CPR, confined space entry, these simple steps can create a great work environment that is safe and productive.

 

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