3.1 – Electrical Safety
The electrical current in regular businesses and homes has enough power to cause death by electrocution. Even changing a light bulb without unplugging the lamp can be hazardous because coming in contact with the “hot” or live part of the socket could kill a person.
What kinds of injuries result from electrical currents?
There are four main types of injuries: electrocution (fatal), electric shock, burns, and falls.
These injuries can happen in various ways:
- Direct contact with the electrical energy.
- When the electricity arcs (jumps) through a gas (such as air) to a person who is grounded (that would provide an alternative route to the ground for the electricity).
- Thermal burns including flash burns from heat generated by an electric arc.
- Flame burns from materials that catch on fire from heating or ignition by electrical currents.
- High voltage contact burns can burn internal tissues while leaving only very small injuries on the outside of the skin.
- Muscle contractions, or a startle reaction, can cause a person to fall from a ladder, scaffold or aerial bucket. The fall can cause serious injuries.
What are some general safety tips for working with or near electricity?
- Inspect tools, power cords, and electrical fittings for damage or wear prior to each use.
- Repair or replace damaged equipment immediately.
- Always tape cords to walls or floors when necessary. Nails and staples can damage cords causing fire and shock hazards.
- Use 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 exists. Unplug any cords to these outlets and do not use until a qualified electrician has checked the wiring.
- Always use ladders made of wood or other non-conductive materials when working with or near electricity or power lines.
- Place halogen lights away from combustible materials such as cloths or curtains. Halogen lamps can become very hot and may be a fire hazard.
- Risk of electric shock is greater in areas that are wet or damp.
- Install Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) as they will interrupt the electrical circuit before a current sufficient to cause death or serious injury occurs.
- Make sure that exposed receptacle boxes are made of non-conductive materials.
- Know where the breakers and boxes are located in case of an emergency.
- Label all circuit breakers and fuse boxes clearly. Each switch should be positively identified as to which outlet or appliance it is for.
- Do not use outlets or cords that have exposed wiring.
- Do not use power tools with the guards removed.
- Do not block access to circuit breakers or fuse boxes.
- Do not touch a person or electrical apparatus in the event of an electrical accident. Always disconnect the current first.