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Pull Out All the Stops – Prevent Electrical Shock in the Workplace

Approximately 700 deaths a year are caused by electrocution, according to the National Safety Council.  This is alarming considering that most of these deaths are easily preventable.  Employers should be aware of this and take steps to implement an overall electrical safety plan that will guard against future accidents of this kind.  OSHA maintains standards that dictate minimum compliance requirements.  This can be the first step in ensuring that the workplace is governed by firm safety rules, but also reinforced through training and monitored on a regular basis.  A safe workplace should also be in compliance with the National Electrical Code (NEC) and National Electrical Safety Code (NESC).

When training employees provide documentation detailing specific safety guidelines that employees need to follow.  Training should include instruction in basic electrical theory, safe work procedures, identification of potential hazards and proper lockout/tagout procedures.  Employees should also receive training in First Aid and CPR. 

It is essential to protect workers who work near electrical power circuits.  Many employers and workers are unaware that even a small amount of current is enough to prove fatal.  Circuits should be deactivated prior to working on or around them.  If this is not possible other measures, such as insulating tools and the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) should be followed.

When starting a new project it is essential to identify potential electrical hazards and plan accordingly to ensure employee safety.  OSHA identifies electrical shock as one of the four major hazards in construction.

The most frequent causes of electrical injuries according to OSHA are:

  • Failure to de-energize electric circuits and equipment before working on them
  • Contact with power lines
  • Lack of ground-fault protection
  • Path to ground missing or discontinuous
  • Equipment not used in manner prescribed
  • Improper use of extension and flexible cords

In addition to training and protection, periodic inspection of electrical equipment will help prevent injuries.  Equipment that produces shock, or wires showing visible signs of wear should be removed and either repaired or replaced immediately.

Take step to ensure electrical safety before an accident occurs.  Prevention is the key to saving lives.