May. 14th, 2019
On the job site and at home, electrical hazards can often be overlooked since the use of electricity is critical for daily tasks. In the United States, May is National Electrical Safety Awareness Month, and with electrical hazards ever present, this provides an opportunity to share reminders about the risks and ways to stay safe. Did you know that in 2017, lockout/tagout and electrical citations were in OSHA’s top 10 most frequently cited violations? That year, there were 136 electrical fatalities, which accounted for 5.7% of all electrical injuries. Of those injuries, 2,210 were nonfatal, representing a 35% increase between 2016 and 2017. Common Electrical Hazards Poor and defective wiring Outlet proximity to water sources Damaged power/extension cords Overloaded power strips and outlets Improper grounding Working on live circuits Overhead power lines Electrical Safety at WorkWhile electrical hazards can cause serious injuries, following proper safety measures can help workers eliminate and/or mitigate the hazards. Remember to keep the tips below in mind when working with or around electrical equipment: Ensure only qualified personnel perform work on electrical lines and equipment: Follow safe work practices before the electrical work, such as LOTO, JSA, proper PPE, etc. Follow NFPA 70E and OSHA guidelines with respect to voltage range and minimum approach distance for electric power generation, transmission and distribution and general electric Do not wear conductive apparel when in close proximity with electrical lines and equipment Stay at least 10 feet away when operating equipment like aerial lifts around electrical lines Properly ground electrical equipment Minimize the use of extension cords and never plug two extension cords together Treat all electrical devices as if they are energized or live Overhead Power Line Safety On April 24, 2019, a train carrying ethanol derailed in Fort Worth, Texas, and five of the twenty tank cars caught fire. While responding to the fire, the Fort Worth Fire Department’s mobile command unit came in contact with an overhead line, which caused the truck to catch fire. Fortunately, there were no injuries from the resulting fire, but the truck itself was destroyed. The incident serves as a good reminder for the risks associated with overhead lines even for those who contend with fire safety issues daily. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), 36% of all electrically related workplace fatalities from 2011-2017 were caused by overhead power lines. Here are some reminders for working safely around power lines: Complete the necessary training for anyone working near overhead lines Check weather conditions prior to starting work Locate power lines before starting work and keep at least 10 feet away Ensure properly rated PPE is worn Never touch a power line or anything that is in contact with a power line Carry large tools like ladders horizontally to avoid contact with a power line If a power line is down, assume it is live, call 911 and stay back at least 35 feet Electrical Safety at HomeJust like the workplace, electrical hazards are also found at home. Overloaded circuits, damaged extension cords and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects gone wrong can lead to fires, injuries and fatalities at home. An average of 51,000 electrical home structure fires occur each year, claiming almost 500 lives, injuring more than 1,400 people and causing more than $1.3 billion in property damage (National Fire Protection Association, 2003-2007). In addition, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that nearly 400 people are electrocuted in the U.S. each year. Below are some helpful electrical safety tips for home: Place lamps on level surfaces and a foot away from anything flammable Ensure GFCI receptacles are installed in kitchens and bathrooms Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when plugging devices into the outlet Keep your little ones safe by re-outfitting your home with tamper-resistant electrical receptacles Check electrical cords and confirm they do not run across doorways and under carpets Match recommended light bulb wattage on lamps and fixtures Get more resources and tips for electrical safety at home from ESFI. Evaluate your Electrical Safety KnowledgeWhether you are at home or at work, protecting ourselves, coworkers and family members should be one of our main goals through eliminating or controlling any electrical hazard. A good first step is to conduct a safety or hazard assessment of your environment. This will ensure you have a good plan and correct any hidden electrical hazards. If you are a contractor, ask your supervisor for a copy of your company’s electrical policies and programs to review to help reduce incidents. If you are a Hiring Client, ask your contact at ISN for information on our written program, training document and supporting document protocols covering electrical safety awareness and NFPA 70E OSHA requirements. Are you a Hiring Client and interested to learn how ISN could help you manage your contractors and validate written programs like electrical safety awareness? Request a demo of our contractor management system, ISNetworld.