Electrical Hazards: Know Your Limits!

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 it can harm workers.

Here are 7 common electrical hazards in the workplace and tips on what you can do to mitigate these risks:

  1. Overhead Power Lines

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. Also, safety barriers and signs must be installed to warn nearby non-electrical workers of the hazards present in the area.

  1. Damaged Tools and Equipment

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. 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.

  1. Inadequate Wiring and Overloaded Circuits

Using wires with inappropriate size for the current can cause overheating and fires to occur. 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. Also, do not overload an outlet and use proper circuit breakers. Perform regular fire risk assessments to identify areas at risk of of bad wiring and circuits.

  1. Exposed Electrical Parts

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.

  1. Improper Grounding

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.

  1. Damaged Insulation

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.

  1. Wet Conditions

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.

Knowing your limits and applying the best electrical safety practices can help reduce the risk of electrical shock and death. It is safer to work within your scope of expertise instead of taking the risk of working beyond your capacity. If you are not confident to do the job, don’t hesitate to call for help from an authorized person.