Electrical Safety

Objectives

  • Discuss government regulations.
  • Discuss specialized electrical PPE.
  • Illustrate safe working habits.

Rules, Regulations & Policies

Every workplace is subject to internal and external rules and regulations. Even if your company has no official safety policies and procedures, you must meet or exceed all applicable government regulations to work lawfully. Ask your supervisor, or do an internet search on your government website to learn more about safe work policies in your country.

Accidents are almost always preventable, and safe work policies are the results of learning from past accidents and near misses. Remember, they exist to protect you, and everyone around you. Don't gamble by ignoring safety procedures.
You're not seriously considering using these leads, are you?

Unnecessary Risk

The leading causes of workplace accidents are

  • using improper and unsafe tools.
  • workers that are improperly trained, and do not use or follow safe procedures.
  • workers that do not use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  • violations of Lockout-tagout (LOTO) or Permit to Work (PTW) procedure.
  • using equipment that has not been properly tested and certified for the job.
  • using equipment that was not designed for the operating conditions present at that moment.

Everything on this list has something in common - each list item is completely preventable. If you catch yourself thinking,

"I don't need to grab my PPE - I'll just fix this quickly."

or perhaps

"No one else is around so I don't have to lockout-tagout."

remember, that's what the beginning of an accident sounds like.

Yes. Yes, you do.

Basic Safety

When you are working in an industrial environment, have a safety plan for the job you are about to perform. This includes

  • understanding and following existing job procedures mandated by your employment, and/or government.
  • identifying all of the hazards in your working environment, and controlling or eliminating them.
  • understanding that the safest work area is one with zero energy.
  • wearing the correct PPE.
  • having a rescue plan or first aid materials close by in case an accident occurs.
  • sharing safety information with others around you. Your company may hold safety meetings or toolbox talks regularly to promote these sharing and learning opportunities.
  • Take responsibility for keeping yourself and your team safe by participating fully in initiatives like safety meetings. Your experience and observations could save someone's life.

    Specialized PPE

    In addition to whatever standard PPE is called for by your work environment, you may also be required to wear flame resistant clothing. Burns are one of the most serious hazards of electrical work, and a burn will become much more severe if your clothing ignites.

    Protect Yourself!

    Give some thought to the fabrics that you wear under your flame resistant outerwear. Avoid fabrics such as untreated cotton, polyesters, nylons and especially polycotton. These materials ignite easily and melt readily. Even as your flame resistant PPE does its job and shields you from the worst of a flame, you can sustain severe burns if the clothing you are wearing next to your skin ignites and melts.

    Flame Resistant
    Polyester
    While this technician is wearing approved flame resistant outerwear, they are also wearing a polyester shirt under their PPE. If there was an arc, the shirt could ignite and melt.

    Non-conductive footwear is always a good idea. Electrical shock is such a common hazard that many standards bodies around the world require footwear to meet non-conductive standards in order to be certified. Check the certification on your shoes or boots to be sure.

    Watch the Certifications!

    Electrical Insulation

    CSA Mark
    ASTM Mark

    These marks indicate that the shoe or boot meet CSA or ASTM standards for protection against electric shock. If there is metal (or another conductive material) in the sole or heel, it is insulated from contact with the ground and your skin. Note that insulating properties may degrade with wear.

    Static Discharge

    CSA Mark
    ASTM Mark

    This mark features the letters "SD", which indicates that the shoe or boot dissipates static discharge.

    CAUTION!

    Do NOT get these two marks mixed up! A static-dissipative boot conducts electricity, so it is worse than useless as shock protection!

    Always verify the meaning of any safety marks on your ppe by reviewing the literature included by the manufacturer. It should state which standards, and which version of those standards your PPE conforms to.

    Electrocution

    Electrical energy can be very destructive. Accidents can end with a human injury and/or equipment damage. It is the responsibility of every worker to know where the electrical energy is and how to control it and work safely around it.

    Electrical hazard signs, like the ones pictured here, warn that high voltage electricity is present. High-voltage hazard signs may vary, but most feature a lightning bolt shape.

    In a worst case scenario, only 10 volts hand-to-hand, or 21 volts hand-to-foot, could produce a fatal current. It is relatively rare to be electrocuted by voltages under 100 volts, but a 1995 study done in China documented 10 cases of death by electrocution at voltages between 25 and 85 volts.

    Remember, it is the current flow through the body that causes the burning and destruction of body tissue, rather than the voltage supply.

    Effects of Current on the Human Body

    CurrentEffect on Human Body
    1 mA or lessNo sensation, not felt
    More than 3 mAPainful shock
    More than 10 mALocal muscle contractions; 2.5% of the population will not be able to let go
    More than 15 mALocal muscle contractions; 50% of the population will not be able to let go
    More than 30 mABreathing difficulty, can cause unconsciousness
    50 to 100 mAPossible ventricular fibrillation of the heart
    100 to 200 mACertain ventricular fibrillation of the heart
    Over 200 mASevere burns, muscular contractions, heart stops, then fibrillates
    Over a few amperesIrreparable damage to body tissues

    The value shown in the chart are approximate. Responses are individual, and can vary slightly depending all kinds of variables, such as your level of hydration, the degree of moisture and salt on your skin, and, of course, the amount of insulation offered by your footwear.

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