Learn more about electrical hazards in the workplace and how to practice electrical safety to mitigate risks
Published 26 Jul 2023
Electrical hazards refer to the potential dangers and risks that are associated with electrical systems. These hazards can cause dangers such as burns, electrocution, arc flash, electric shock, and other serious injuries. In extreme cases, they can even lead to fires or explosions, posing a threat to life, property, and the overall safety of a place and its occupants.
Working around electricity can be very safe on the job site when workers properly identify and control hazards. But, inadequate training, lack of experience, and failure to recognize potential hazards could result in electric shock or death.
The construction industry is most in danger from electrical hazards, accounting for 52% of all electrical fatalities in the US workplace. Most of these incidents and fatalities were caused by direct worker contact with overhead power lines and contact with machines, tools, and hand-carried metallic objects. So how do we protect ourselves against these dangers?
One of the best ways to protect yourself against these dangers is through awareness. Knowing the potential risks associated with electricity allows you to take precautions to prevent electrical accidents and fatalities. Having this knowledge can also help you spot the signs of electrical hazards immediately for prompt action, thereby contributing to the overall safety of the workplace.
Electrical hazards, while dangerous, can be prevented when you’re aware of the factors that contribute to them. Here’s a list of the most common causes of electrical hazards to watch out for:
Electrocution is one of the most common hazards across construction sites according to OSHA. Identifying electrical hazards can help raise awareness of the risks, their severity, and how they can harm workers.
In this section, learn about common electrical hazards in the workplace and electrical safety tips to prevent them:
Examples of Electrical Hazards
Overhead powered and energized electrical lines have high voltages which can cause major burns and electrocution to workers. Remember to maintain a minimum distance of 10 feet from overhead power lines and nearby equipment. Conduct site surveys to ensure that nothing is stored under overhead power lines.
In addition, safety barriers and signs must be installed to warn nearby non-electrical workers of the hazards present in the area.
Exposure to damaged electrical tools and equipment can be very dangerous. Do not fix anything unless you are qualified to do so. Thoroughly check for cracks, cuts, or abrasions on cables, wires, and cords. In case of any defects, have them repaired or replaced.
Aside from this, Lock Out Tag Out (LOTO) procedures should be performed at all times before commencing electrical maintenance and repairs. LOTO procedures are there to protect all workers on a worksite.
Using wires of inappropriate size for the current can cause overheating and electrical fires to occur. To prevent this, use the correct wire suitable for the operation and the electrical load to work on. Use the correct extension cord designed for heavy-duty use.
Make sure to not overload an outlet and use proper circuit breakers. Perform regular fire risk assessments to identify areas at risk of bad wiring and circuits.
Examples of exposed electrical parts include temporary lighting, open power distribution units, and detached insulation parts on electrical cords. These hazards can cause potential shocks and burns. Secure these items with proper guarding mechanisms and always check for any exposed parts to be repaired immediately.
The most common OSHA electrical violation is the improper grounding of equipment. Proper grounding can eliminate unwanted voltage and reduce the risk of electrocution. Never remove the metallic ground pin as it is responsible for returning unwanted voltage to the ground.
Defective or inadequate insulation is a hazard. Be aware of damaged insulation and report it immediately. Turn off all power sources before replacing damaged insulation and never attempt to cover them with electrical tape.
Never operate electrical equipment in wet locations. Water greatly increases the risk of electrocution especially if the equipment has damaged insulation. Have a qualified electrician inspect electrical equipment that has gotten wet before energizing it.
Electrical inspections are an essential preventive measure to avoid electrical hazards in the workplace. This procedure helps detect and address potential hazards, reducing the risk of electrical injuries and contributing to a safer working environment. Failure to conduct these inspections regularly can also lead to accidents caused by electric shock or even death.
So how do these inspections aid in preventing electrical hazards? Here’s a quick overview to help you get started:
Eliminate manual tasks and streamline your operations.
Electrical safety training is a must for personal safety, accident prevention, and regulatory compliance. It equips workers with the necessary skills to minimize risks and safeguard themselves against electrical hazards in various workplace settings.
Don’t let your team’s electrical hazards safety training turn into another tedious activity that they just want to get over with. With the help of training courses on the SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor) platform, you can give them an engaging training experience while making sure that they learn everything they need to work safely and effectively.
And here’s the best part: most of these Training courses are designed to be editable! Feel free to add your own content or branding to make the training look and sound just like you.
Engineers, electricians, and overhead line workers, both contractors and subcontractors are at the top of the list of professionals who are most exposed to electrical hazards. Common tasks that put these workers at risk include electrical installation and repairs, testing of fixtures and equipment, and inspection and maintenance activities.
People who are indirectly working with electricity like office workers are also exposed to electrical hazards.
According to the National Electrical Code, electrical hazard areas are specific places or environments with an increased risk of electrical hazards. These hazardous locations typically have conditions or equipment that pose potential dangers to workers, such as:
Electrical equipment should be checked regularly to make sure that they are working properly and are safe to use. Testing intervals, however, may vary depending on various factors such as the type of equipment, its intended use, the manufacturer’s recommendations, and the working environment they are utilized or exposed to.
For instance, some equipment may require quarterly or biannual check-ups. OSHA also recommends that all electrical equipment be inspected at least once every year.
Faulty electrical equipment can put individuals at risk if they’re not found and resolved swiftly. Here are a few signs that could warn you if your electrical equipment is defective:
Traditionally, electrical inspectors document their findings and observations manually on paper. Further, they have to go back to the office, review all results, and create an Electrical Certificate of Compliance (CoC) if the client’s property has been proven to be compliant. This cumbersome process makes critical data susceptible to damage and loss, in addition to the storage and organization issues it presents.
SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor), the world’s leading electrical inspection software, can solve this problem by converting paper forms into digital ones. This mobile-first solution makes the inspection process more efficient and systematic to help save invaluable time, boost productivity, improve communication, and upgrade operational efficiency.
The convenience of using the SafetyCulture inspection app on a handheld device can solve traditional paper form issues and more, as follows:
Jona Tarlengco is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture since 2018. She usually writes about safety and quality topics, contributing to the creation of well-researched articles. Her 5-year experience in one of the world’s leading business news organisations helps enrich the quality of the information in her work.
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