Electrocution is one of the leading causes of workplace fatalities. It’s a hazard not limited to construction, manufacturing or factory settings, either; even an office building can present electrical risks. Below are five tips and precautions you should take regardless of your work setting.
1. Be cautious with electrical extension cords. From mobile worksites to office buildings, extension cords often can’t be avoided. In any setting, be sure that extension cords are well protected against physical damage. Do routine checks for any abrasions, tears or cracks in extension cords, as they can go unnoticed and pose serious threats for electrocution or fire. In the event that an extension cord must be spliced for any reason, make sure that the splice is well insulated — better than the original insulation, if possible. Additionally, be sure that extension cords have enough slack in them so that they are not putting unnecessary strain on the electrical outlet itself.
2. Assume all electrical devices are energized before servicing them. From changing a light bulb to performing maintenance for a piece of electrical equipment, you must always assume you are handling equipment that is energized until you can verify otherwise (see tip No. 4 below about Lockout/Tagout). And be mindful of where you’ve placed all tools and equipment (ladders, for example) so that you don’t inadvertently energize something. When in doubt, or when working with electrical equipment, be sure to use personal protective equipment, such as electrical gloves and eyewear, and only handle electrical equipment that you are familiar with and have been trained to service. Alert any nearby coworkers that you are performing maintenance work so that they can steer clear.
3. Use GFCI in wet settings. Some work settings might require Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) if work conditions are damp. Those areas include kitchens, bathrooms and outdoor work settings. If your worksite falls into any of these categories, be sure your GFCI equipment is in place and is working properly. In settings prone to dampness, don’t rely on GFCI alone; use extra precautions to ensure that electrical equipment is properly insulated against such conditions.
4. Use Lockout/Tagout Equipment and Procedures. Also known as LOTO, Lockout/Tagout procedures, as defined by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), are an effective safeguard against workplace electrocution. Lockout refers to devices that prevent unwanted access to electrical equipment by requiring the user to have a designated key. Tagout refers to devices that act as warning systems that alert others that a specific machine is currently undergoing maintenance, decreasing the chances of a person mistakenly energizing it and causing injury.
5. Maintain a hazard observation checklist. The only way to know if your equipment is safe is to check it regularly. Employees in any work setting should be trained to spot immediate dangers, such as exposed wires, dangerous spills, worn extension cords or and machines that are not operating properly. Checklists should be specific to each job setting. A checklist should include emergency contact information, as most employees will not be trained to address electrical issues.
About the author:
Christina Chatfield, Marketing Communications Manager of HARTING USA in Elgin, IL, is an expert in industrial electrical and electronic components. HARTING Technology Group develops, manufactures and sells products for your specialized manufacturing needs.