Course 615 Electrical Safety - Hazards and Controls

Evaluating Risk and Controlling Hazards

Scope of 1910.1200
Risk Matrix.

Evaluating Risk

After you recognize a hazard, your next step in the Electrical Safety Model is to evaluate your risk from the hazard. The closer you work to the "danger zone," the more likely you'll be exposed to the electrical hazard.

Risk = Probability + Severity. To analyze and evaluate risk we must determine both probability and severity. Probability is the likelihood that an injury will occur. Severity is the degree of harm to the injured worker. You can estimate probability; however, severity is nothing more than a matter of luck.

For instance, exposed wires should be recognized as a hazard. If the exposed wires are 15 feet off the ground, you're not close to the danger zone so the probability of an injury is low. However, if you are going to be working on a roof near those same wires, the probability would be high. In either situation, contact with the exposed wire could be fatal. But if the employee is working at elevation and could fall, the severity is more likely going to be fatal.

Another factor increasing your risk of injury is working around combinations of hazards. Improper grounding and a damaged tool greatly increase your risk. Wet conditions combined with other hazards also increase your risk. You will need to make decisions about the nature of hazards to evaluate your risk and do the right thing to remain safe.

1. What must be determined when evaluating the risk of an electrical hazard?

a. Probability and risk
b. Severity and compliance
c. Probability and severity
d. Risk level and magnitude

Clues Indicating Risk

Protect agains electrical hazards
What's your clue?

There may be important clues that electrical hazards exist. For example, if a GFCI keeps tripping while you are using a power tool, that's a clue that there is a problem. Don't keep resetting the GFCI and continue to work. You must evaluate the "clue" and decide what action should be taken to control the hazard.

Any of these conditions, or "clues," tells you something important: there is a risk of fire and electrical shock. The equipment or tools involved must be avoided. You will frequently be caught in situations where you need to decide if these clues are present. A maintenance electrician, supervisor, or instructor needs to be called if there are signs of overload and you are not sure of the degree of risk. Ask for help whenever you are not sure what to do. By asking for help, you will protect yourself and others.

2. What should you do if a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) keeps tripping while you are using a power tool?

a. Keep resetting the GFCI until it works right
b. Recognize it as a clue that there is a problem
c. Take the GFCI out of service and continue work
d. Attempt three resets to see if it will work

Next Section

Controlling Hazards

Protect against  electrical hazards
Be sure your work environment is safe.

To control hazards, you must first create a safe work environment, then work in a safe manner. Generally, it is best to remove the hazards altogether and create an environment that is truly safe. When OSHA regulations and the NEC are followed, safe work environments are created.

But, you never know when materials or equipment might fail. Prepare yourself for the unexpected by using safe work practices. Use as many safeguards as possible. If one fails, another may protect you from injury or death.

Creating a Safe Work Environment

A safe work environment is created by controlling contact with electrical voltages and the currents they can cause. Electrical currents need to be controlled so they do not pass through the body. Make your environment safer by doing the following:

  • Treat all conductors - even de-energized ones - as if they are energized until they are locked out and tagged.
  • Lock out and tag out circuits and machines.
  • Prevent overloaded wiring by using the right size and type of wire.
  • Prevent exposure to live electrical parts by isolating them.
  • Prevent exposure to live wires and parts by using insulation.
  • Prevent shocking currents from electrical systems and tools by grounding them.
  • Prevent shocking currents by using GFCIs.
  • Prevent too much current in circuits by using overcurrent protection devices.

3. Treat all electrical conductors as if they are _____.

a. de-energized and safe to work with
b. de-energized and not properly grounded
c. energized with high voltage dc current
d. energized until they are locked out and tagged

Circuit Protection Devices

Protect agains electrical hazards
Use Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs).

Circuit protection devices limit or stop the flow of current automatically in the event of a ground fault, overload, or short circuit in the wiring system. Well-known examples of these devices are fuses, circuit breakers, ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI), and arc-fault circuit interrupters.

Fuses and circuit breakers open or break the circuit automatically when too much current flows through them. When that happens, fuses melt and circuit breakers trip the circuit open. Fuses and circuit breakers are designed to protect conductors and equipment. They prevent wires and other components from overheating and open the circuit when there is a risk of a ground fault.

Ground-fault circuit interrupters, or GFCIs, are used in wet locations, construction sites, and other high-risk areas. These devices interrupt the flow of electricity within as little as 1/40 of a second to prevent electrocution. GFCIs compare the amount of current going into electric equipment with the amount of current returning from it along the circuit conductors. If the difference exceeds 5 milliamperes, the device automatically shuts off the electric power.

Arc-fault devices provide protection from the effects of arc-faults by recognizing characteristics unique to arcing and by functioning to deenergize the circuit when an arc-fault is detected.

4. Which device interrupts the flow of electricity within as little as 1/40 of a second to prevent electrocution?

a. Capacitor
c. Circuit breaker
d. Fuse

Control Inadequate Wiring Hazards

Scope of 1910.1200
Cabling fixed electrical wiring.

Electrical hazards result from using the wrong size or type of wire. You must control such hazards to create a safe work environment. You must choose the right size wire for the current expected in a circuit. The wire must be able to handle the current safely. The wire's insulation must be appropriate for the voltage and tough enough for the environment. Connections need to be reliable and protected.

Fixed, permanent wiring is better than extension cords, which can be misused and damaged more easily. A variety of materials can be used in wiring applications, including non-metallic sheathed cable (Romex®), armored cable, and metal and plastic conduit.

Control Hazards of Fixed Wiring

The wiring methods and size of conductors used in a system depend on several factors:

  • intended use of the circuit system
  • building materials
  • size and distribution of electrical load
  • location of equipment (such as underground burial)
  • environmental conditions (such as dampness)
  • presence of corrosives
  • temperature extremes

Control Hazards of Flexible Wiring

Flexible wiring can be used for extension cords or power supply cords. DO NOT use flexible wiring as a substitute for fixed wiring or in situations where:

  • frequent inspection would be difficult,
  • damage would be likely, or
  • long-term electrical supply is needed.

Flexible cords must not be:

  • run through or hidden in holes in walls, ceilings, or floors;
  • run through doorways, windows, or similar openings (unless physically protected); or
  • attached to building surfaces (except with a tension take-up device within 6 feet of the supply end)

5. Do not use flexible wiring as a substitute for fixed wiring or in situations where _____.

a. damage would be likely
b. short-term supply is needed
c. inspections are infrequent
d. line length exceeds 25 feet

Protection from Energized Parts

Protect agains electrical hazards
Properly grounded power tools.

A break in an electric tool's or machine's insulation can cause its metal parts to become "hot" or energized, meaning that they conduct electricity. Touching these energized parts can result in an electrical shock, burn, or electrocution.

The best way to protect yourself when using electrical tools or machines is to establish a low-resistance path from the device's metallic case to the ground. This requires an equipment grounding conductor, a low-resistance wire that directs unwanted current directly to the ground.

A properly installed grounding conductor has a low resistance to ground and greatly reduces the amount of current that passes through your body. Cord and plug equipment with a three-prong plug is a common example of equipment incorporating this ground conductor. Never use a three-prong plug if the center ground prong is missing.

Another form of protection is to use listed or labeled portable tools and appliances protected by an approved system of double insulation or its equivalent. Where such a system is employed, it must be marked distinctively to indicate that the tool or appliance uses an approved double insulation system.

For more information, check out OSHAcademy course 710 Energy Control Program (Lockout/Tagout).

6. What should be done if you see a power tool's plug with a missing center ground prong?

a. Use the tool because the plug is still safe
b. Be careful and use common sense
c. Tag the tool before use
d. Do not use it

Protection Against Unexpected Startup

Protect agains electrical hazards
Lockout/Tagout Devices.

Lockout/Tagout. Proper lockout/tagout procedures protect you from the dangers of the accidental or unexpected startup of electrical equipment and are required for general industry by OSHA Standard 1910.333, Selection and Use of Work Practices. Requirements for construction applications are in 29 CFR 1926.417, Lockout and Tagging of Circuits. These procedures ensure that electrical equipment is deenergized before it is repaired or inspected and protects you against electrocution or shock.

The first step before beginning any inspection or repair job is to turn the current off at the switch box and padlock the switch in the OFF position. This applies even on so-called low-voltage circuits. Securely tagging the switch or controls of the machine or equipment being locked out of service clarifies to everyone in the area which equipment or circuits are being inspected or repaired.

Only qualified electricians who have been trained in safe lockout procedures should maintain electrical equipment. No two of the locks used should match, and each key should fit just one lock. In addition, one individual lock and key should be issued to each maintenance worker authorized to lock out and tag the equipment. All employees who repair a given piece of equipment should lock out its switch with an individual lock. Only authorized workers should be permitted to remove it.

7. Which of the following procedures protects the electrician from accidental or unexpected equipment startup?

a. Electrical release procedures
b. Lockout/tagout procedures
c. Continual monitoring of equipment status
d. Using a "buddy system" during maintenance

Protection Around High Voltage Lines

Protect agains electrical hazards
Ensure adequate electrical protective equipment when working around HV lines.

Before working under or near overhead power lines, ensure that you maintain a safe distance to the lines and, for very high-voltage lines, ground any equipment such as cranes that can become energized. If working on power lines, ensure that the lines have been deenergized and grounded by the owner or operator of the lines. Other protective measures like guarding or insulating the lines help prevent accidental contact.

Employees unqualified to work with electricity, as well as mechanical equipment, should remain at least 10 feet away from overhead power lines. If the voltage is more than 50,000 volts, the clearance increases by 4 inches for each additional 10,000 volts.

When mechanical equipment is operated near overhead lines, employees standing on the ground should avoid contact with the equipment unless it is located outside the danger zone. When factoring the safe standoff distance, be sure to consider the equipment's maximum reach.

Safe practices that will save your life:

  • Do NOT assume a downed conductor is safe simply because it is on the ground or it is not sparking.
  • Do NOT assume that all coated, weatherproof or insulated wire is just telephone, television or fiber-optic cable.
  • Low-hanging wires still have voltage potential even if they are not touching the ground. So, “don't touch them.” Everything is energized until tested to be de-energized.
  • Never go near a downed or fallen electric power line. Always assume that it is energized. Touching it could be fatal.
  • Electricity can spread outward through the ground in a circular shape from the point of contact. As you move away from the center, large differences in voltages can be created.
  • Never drive over downed power lines. Assume that they are energized. And, even if they are not, downed lines can become entangled in your equipment or vehicle.
  • If contact is made with an energized power line while you are in a vehicle, remain calm and do not get out unless the vehicle is on fire. If possible, call for help.
  • If you must exit any equipment because of fire or other safety reasons, try to jump completely clear, making sure that you do not touch the equipment and the ground at the same time. Land with both feet together and shuffle away in small steps to minimize the path of electric current and avoid electrical shock. Be careful to maintain your balance.

8. If contact is made with an energized power line while you are in a vehicle, be sure to _____.

a. get out and slowly walk away from the vehicle
b. stay in the car unless the vehicle is on fire
c. jump away and land on one foot
d. ask someone to open the door for you
Protect agains electrical hazards
Electrician using insulated gloves.

Electrical Protective Equipment

Employees who work directly with electricity should use the personal protective equipment required for the jobs they perform. This equipment may include rubber insulating gloves, hoods, sleeves, matting, blankets, line hose, and industrial protective helmets designed to reduce electric shock hazard. All help reduce the risk of electrical accidents. General safe practices include:

  • Electrical protective equipment must be periodically tested in accord with the test tables found in the standard(s).
  • Insulating equipment must be inspected for damage before each day's use. Equipment found defective must be taken out of service until repaired and retested.
  • Protect agains electrical hazards
    Electrician using insulated crimping tool.
  • The arc-rated protective clothing and other protective equipment generally must cover the worker's entire body, except for hands, feet, head and face, which may be protected by other PPE.


Appropriate and properly maintained tools help protect workers against electric hazards. It's important to maintain tools regularly because it prevents them from deteriorating and becoming dangerous. Check each tool before using it. If you find a defect, immediately remove it from service and tag it so no one will use it until it has been repaired or replaced.

When using a tool to handle energized conductors, check to make sure it is designed and constructed to withstand the voltages and stresses to which it has been exposed.

9. Insulating equipment, such as electrical protective gloves, found defective must be _____.

a. thrown away and never used again
b. taken out of service until repaired and retested
c. checked and used carefully
d. exchanged for other protective equipment the next day

Training Requirements

Protect agains electrical hazards
Only competent and trained workers should work on electrical circuits.

All employees should be trained to be thoroughly familiar with the safety procedures for their particular jobs. Moreover, good judgment and common sense are integral to preventing electrical accidents. When working on electrical equipment, for example, some basic procedures to follow are to:

  • Assume all overhead wires are energized at lethal voltages. Never assume that a wire is safe to touch even if it is down or appears to be insulated.
  • Never touch a fallen overhead power line. Call the electric utility company to report fallen electrical lines.
  • Stay at least 10 feet away from overhead wires during cleanup and other activities. If working at heights or handling long objects, survey the area before starting work for the presence of overhead wires.
  • If an overhead wire falls across your vehicle while you are driving, stay inside the vehicle and continue to drive away from the line. If the engine stalls, do not leave your vehicle. Warn people not to touch the vehicle or the wire. Call or ask someone to call the local electric utility company and emergency services.
  • Never operate electrical equipment while you are standing in water.
  • Never repair electrical cords or equipment unless qualified and authorized.
  • Have a qualified electrician inspect electrical equipment that has gotten wet before energizing it.
  • If working in damp locations, inspect electric cords and equipment to ensure that they are in good condition and free of defects, and use a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).
  • Always use caution when working near electricity.

10. How far should workers, or their equipment, stay away from overhead wires during cleanup and other activities?

a. No less than 3 feet
b. Between 3 and 5 feet
c. At least 10 feet
d. Between 5 and 15 feet

Check your Work

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This is an excellent video by Schneider Electric that when teams work in electrical environments, they need to have full knowledge of safety rules. This is vital, not only for workers but also for the safety of employees supervised.

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