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How to Stay Safe When Working with Electricity

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Electrical injuries are a common type of accident sustained across several industries. The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that the control of hazardous energy was the 6th most frequently cited standard violation in 2018. Additionally, in the same period, the Electrical Safety Foundation International found that over 1,500 individuals across the United States have sustained an electrical injury. Injuries caused by electrical hazards may include nerve damage, organ damage, and severe burns.

Recent data suggests that 160 individuals died due to electrocution in 2018. Because electricity may result in serious injury or death when handled incorrectly, many organizations and

governmental bodies issue guidelines and regulations on electrical safety. Following the best practices related to electrical safety could reduce the likelihood of a serious injury or fatality occurring.

Where Do Electricity Related Accidents Occur?

The occurrence of electricity related injuries varies across industries and sources. The construction, manufacturing, and professional services industries comprised the largest amount of electricity-related injuries and fatalities in 2018. Many of the electricity-related fatalities involved interaction with materials, tools, or machinery. A majority of electrocutions occur while an injured worker is engaging in construction, cleaning, or repair.

Safe Electricity Practices

It is best to use qualified electricians or trained professionals when conducting electrical work or interacting with electricity. Providing personal protective equipment (PPE), such as insulating rubber gloves, face shields, and flame-resistant clothing could reduce the likelihood of an electricity-related injury or fatality. Further, other safety measures could also prevent workplace injuries. This includes testing electrical circuits or outlets before interacting with them, inspecting tools, and using the correct equipment when performing electrical work.

Additionally, checking workplace equipment for safety may help reduce injuries. Certain tools, such as metal ladders, paint rollers, scaffolding, and other equipment may conduct electricity and could result in an injury if used in electrical work or near an electricity source.

Hazard Recognition

In addition to providing protective gear and checking equipment, there are other actions that managers and employers may take to prevent injury.

“Taking proactive steps to ensure safety at a workplace could reduce the likelihood of an electrical injury occurring,” said Attorney John Cooper of Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers. “In addition to adhering to regulations, worksite managers or employers can inspect a worksite to identify potential hazards where an electrical injury may occur.”

Common electrical hazards include circuits, power lines, and other conductors. Issuing frequent warnings and posting hazard signs could help keep workers aware of potential dangers. In some cases, guarding or overseeing important electrical devices, such as circuit breakers or power switches, could further prevent accidents.

OSHA Requirements and Regulations

OSHA establishes and enforces minimum safety requirements for the control of hazardous energy. Under the OSHA requirements, qualifying employers must establish and maintain an energy-control program. An energy control program outlines electrical procedures, steps to shut down and secure equipment, test machines, and how to stop the flow of energy if needed. In addition to establishing and implementing this procedure, OSHA requires that employers train their workers on their energy control program and periodically inspect the procedures. If during inspection employers find that these procedures need to be updated, they should do this as well. A worker that falls under the OSHA requirements may need to demonstrate their his or her knowledge of the energy control procedure before beginning onsite service or maintenance.