Electrical Safety in the Workplace: Protect Your Workers from Hazards

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If your workers deal with electricity on the job, they could be at risk for an injury or worse every day. They need to know those risks. And it’s important to ensure that workers understand how to work safely with or near electricity, and that they understand the risks involved. The main types of electrical injuries they can suffer include electrocution, electric shock, burns and falls.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) offers the following tips for staying safe when working with or near electricity:

  • Inspect portable cord-and-plug connected equipment, extension cords, power bars, and electrical fittings for damage or wear before each use. Repair or replace damaged equipment immediately.
  • Always tape extension cords to walls or floors when necessary. Nails and staples can damage extension cords, causing fire and shock hazards.
  • Use extension cords or equipment that is rated for the level of amperage or wattage that you are using.
  • Always use the correct size fuse. Replacing a fuse with one of a larger size can cause excessive currents in the wiring and possibly start a fire.
  • Be aware that unusually warm or hot outlets may be a sign that unsafe wiring conditions exist. Unplug any cords or extension cords to these outlets and do not use until a qualified electrician has checked the wiring.
  • Always use ladders made with non-conductive side rails when working with or near electricity or power lines.
  • Place halogen lights away from combustible materials, such as cloths or curtains.
  • Install Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) to interrupt an electrical circuit before a current sufficient to cause death or serious injury occurs.
  • Use a portable in-line Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) if you’re not certain that the receptacle you’re plugging an extension cord into is GFCI protected.
  • Make sure that exposed receptacle boxes are made of non-conductive materials.
  • Know where the panel and circuit breakers are located in case of an emergency.
  • Label all circuit breakers and fuse boxes clearly.
  • Don’t use outlets or cords with exposed wiring or portable cord-and-plug connected power tools with the guards removed.
  • Don’t block access to panels and circuit breakers or fuse boxes and don’t touch a person or electrical apparatus in the event of an electrical accident.

CCOHS has additional electrical safety tips, including those related to working with power tools and power cords here.

Safety News You Can Use

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A company was fined $80,000 after a worker suffered injuries from falling into a storage bin that collapsed while it was being pushed.

A Ministry of Labour investigation uncovered that the side of the bin the worker was pushing had latches that are designed to collapse the bins for shipping. The worker was apparently unaware that the latches could be hazardous and that many workers push the bins in the same way this worker did.

Learn more here.

Contractor Fined After Workers are Burned

A contractor was fined $80,000 after two workers were burned while working on electrical equipment that was not properly shut off. While the workers performed their duties, an arc flash within the switch gear unit occurred. Both workers suffered second- and first-degree burns and one received third-degree burns.

Read more here.

Roofing Company and Owner Violate Worker Safety

A roofing company and its owner were fined for various workers safety violations. The company was fined $33,000 for failing to ensure workers wore fall protection, protective headwear and protective footwear. The owner was fined $14,000 for failing to ensure workers wore fall protection.

Click here for more details.

Electrical Safety: What You Need to Know to Keep Workers Safe

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Working with electricity can be very dangerous.  It’s important to ensure that workers understand how to work safety with or near electricity, and that they understand the risks involved. The main types of electrical injuries they can suffer include electrocution, electric shock, burns and falls.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) offers the following tips for staying safe when working with or near electricity:

  • Inspect portable cord-and-plug connected equipment, extension cords, power bars, and electrical fittings for damage or wear before each use. Repair or replace damaged equipment immediately.
  • Always tape extension cords to walls or floors when necessary. Nails and staples can damage extension cords, causing fire and shock hazards.
  • Use extension cords or equipment that is rated for the level of amperage or wattage that you are using.
  • Always use the correct size fuse. Replacing a fuse with one of a larger size can cause excessive currents in the wiring and possibly start a fire.
  • Be aware that unusually warm or hot outlets may be a sign that unsafe wiring conditions exist. Unplug any cords or extension cords to these outlets and do not use until a qualified electrician has checked the wiring.
  • Always use ladders made with non-conductive side rails when working with or near electricity or power lines.
  • Place halogen lights away from combustible materials, such as cloths or curtains.
  • Install Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) to interrupt an electrical circuit before a current sufficient to cause death or serious injury occurs.
  • Use a portable in-line Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) if you’re not certain that the receptacle you’re plugging an extension cord into is GFCI protected.
  • Make sure that exposed receptacle boxes are made of non-conductive materials.
  • Know where the panel and circuit breakers are located in case of an emergency.
  • Label all circuit breakers and fuse boxes clearly.
  • Don’t use outlets or cords with exposed wiring or portable cord-and-plug connected power tools with the guards removed.
  • Don’t block access to panels and circuit breakers or fuse boxes and don’t touch a person or electrical apparatus in the event of an electrical accident.

CCOHS has additional electrical safety tips, including those related to working with power tools and power cords here.

Simple Precautions to Avoid Serious Electrical Accidents

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Because it is so essential to nearly every type of operation, electricity can be a serious workplace hazard. Almost every employee is exposed to some level of electricity. What is the best way to protect your employees against electrical hazards? Education and training. Start with the basics.

A Look at Insulation

Insulators, such as glass, mica, rubber or plastic used to coat metals and other conductors, help stop or reduce the flow of electrical current. This helps prevent electrical shock, fires and short circuits. To be effective, the insulation must be suitable for the voltage level involved and appropriate for conditions, such as temperature and other environmental factors like moisture, oil, gasoline, corrosive fumes or other substances that could cause the insulator to fail. Before connecting electrical equipment to a power source, it’s a good idea to check the insulation for any exposed wires or defects. Insulation covering flexible cords is particularly vulnerable to damage.

Where Guarding Comes Into Play

Another form of protection is guarding. This involves locating or enclosing electrical equipment to prevent workers from accidentally coming into contact with its live parts. Recommended locations include a room, vault or similar enclosure; a balcony, gallery or elevated site. Sturdy, permanent screens can also work as effective guards. Conspicuous signs must be posted at the entrances to electrical rooms and similarly guarded locations to alert workers to the electrical hazard and to forbid entry to unauthorized people.

What about Grounding?

Grounding a tool or electrical system means intentionally creating a low-resistance path that connects to the earth, which prevents the buildup of voltages that could cause an electrical accident. Grounding is normally a secondary protective measure and does not guarantee that a worker won’t get a shock or be injured or killed by an electrical current. It will, however, substantially reduce the risk, especially when used in combination with other safety measures. A service or system ground is designed primarily to protect machines, tools and insulation against damage. An equipment ground helps protect the equipment operator.

Circuit Protection Devices

Circuit protection devices limit or stop the flow of current automatically in the event of a ground fault, overload or short circuit in the wiring system. Common examples of these devices are fuses, circuit breakers, ground fault circuit interrupters and arc-fault circuit interrupters. Fuses and circuit breakers protect conductors and equipment by breaking the circuit automatically when too much current flows through. Ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) are used in wet locations, construction sites and other high-risk areas. These devices interrupt the flow of electricity within as little as 1/40 of a second to prevent electrocution. Arc-fault devices de-energize the circuit when an arc-fault is detected.

Remember Safe Work Practices

Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that electrical accidents are largely preventable through everyday compliance and training. Remember and pass on the following: always de-energize electric equipment before inspection or repair; keep electric tools properly maintained; exercise caution when working near energized lines; and use the appropriate protective equipment.

Product Spotlight: Lockout/Tagout

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To ensure the safety of workers, it is crucial to perform the correct lockout/tagout procedures on equipment before it is serviced.

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), lockout/tagout programs help prevent:

  • Contact with a hazard while performing tasks that require the removal, by-passing, or deactivation of safe guarding devices
  • The unintended release of hazardous energy (stored energy)
  • The unintended start-up or motion of machinery, equipment, or processes

Seton has a full selection of lockout/tagout products to ensure the safety and security of workers.

In addition to lockout signs, tags, and labels, Seton also offers protective clothing that keeps workers safe from exposure to electrical arc flash.

Don’t Turn Your Back on Being Safe: Reduce the Risks Associated with Electrical Work

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According to the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA), improper procedure is connected to more than 60% of electrical worker incidents. ESA also notes that occupational fatalities due to electrocution are a major issue. Those most impacted by electrocution deaths include electricians, electrical helpers, utility workers, as well as individuals who perform repair and maintenance work in construction and manufacturing.

ESA reports that only 57% of electricians claim to always take safety precautions when performing their work, and it suggests that electrical workers follow strict safety precautions all the time. Workers should also recognize live power and be sure not to work on energized equipment. Following proper lockout/tagout procedures can help safeguard against workers operating on energized equipment awaiting repair. Also, ESA recommends the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) to guard against injuries due to unexpected electrical arc flashes.

It is also recommended that electrical workers follow Canadian workplace electrical safety standards. CSA Z463 is the Canadian standard that covers electrical safety requirements for employees.

Electrical Safety Pop Quiz

Preventing Electrocution

In a job site such as a construction or mining site, the risk of fatal electrocution and electric shocks are significantly higher because of the exposed live wires and high voltage equipment present. Preventing electrocution should be prioritized to prevent serious injuries and possible loss of lives.

Knowledge is the best defense and prevention. Do your workers know the facts about electrical safety? Here’s a True or False quiz to find out.

  1. Electrocution occurs more often at home than the workplace. – T/F
  2. 6/1000 of an amp electric shock is fatal. – T/F
  3. Lack of lockout/tagout programs can contribute to accidental electrocution and electric shocks. – T/F
  4. There’s no need to test electrical outlets if you shut off the breaker or pull the appropriate fuse. – T/F
  5. Wood or fibreglass ladders are prefferable when working in areas with live wires. – T/F
  6. Electrocution or electric shock only occurs upon direct contact with live wires. – T/F
  7. It’s necessary to mark underground electrical wiring in job sites. – T/F
  8. You can use extension cords as permanent wiring for power supplies. –T/F
  9. It’s ok to break off the third prong on a plug so it fits an outlet. –T/F
  10. A warm or hot wiring needs to be checked. – T/F
  11. It’s critical to label and identify electrical wires and cables. –T/F
  12. It’s fine to use nails or staples to secure and organize wiring. – T/F
  13. A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter should be installed in damp or wet areas. – T/F
  14. It’s safer to pull the electrical equipment by the power cord instead of the plug. – T/F
  15. If there are multiple outlets in an extension cord, it’s safe to plug in multiple electrical devices regardless of watt requirements. – T/F
  16. Always check for exposed wiring and damage to cords and plug. – T/F
  17. You should always wear protective equipment when handling electrical jobs. – T/F
  18. It’s important to maintain 10m distance from a crane or truck that came in contact with live wires. – T/F
  19. Arc flashes are less serious than direct contact with a live wire. – T/F
  20. In case of emergency, when a person is electrocuted, you should immediately help the person by grabbing and pulling them from the source of electricity. – T/F

Answers:

1. F, 2. T, 3.T, 4.F, 5.T, 6.F, 7.T, 8.F, 9.F, 10.T, 11.T, 12.F, 13.T, 14.F, 15.F, 16.T, 17.T, 18.T, 19.F, 20. F

 

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