To make sure all employees are safe before, during and after electrical work is performed, electrical workers should follow the three-step process of the Electrical Safety Model:
To be safe, you must think about your job and plan for hazards. To avoid injury or death, you must understand and recognize hazards. You need to evaluate the situation you are in and assess your risks. You need to control hazards by creating a safe work environment, by using safe work practices, and by reporting hazards to a supervisor or trainer.
If you do not recognize, evaluate, and control hazards, you may be injured or killed by the electricity itself, electrical fires, or falls. If you use the safety model to recognize, evaluate, and control hazards, you will be much safer at work.
Use the safety model to:
The first step of the electrical safety model is recognizing the electrical hazards around you. Only then can you avoid or control the hazards. It is best to discuss and plan hazard recognition tasks with your co-workers.The most frequent causes of electrical injury/death are:
Sometimes we take risks ourselves, but when we are responsible for others, we are more careful. Sometimes others see hazards that we overlook. Of course, it is possible to be talked out of our concerns by someone who is reckless or dangerous. Don't take a chance.
Careful planning of safety procedures reduces the risk of injury. Decisions to lock out and tag out circuits and equipment need to be made during this part of the safety model. Plans for action must be made now.
Evaluation is a judgment call, and it's based on the perceived level of risk of injury. Risk is determined by analyzing the probability of an injury occurring and the severity of the injury if it occurs. The greater the probability and higher the severity, the greater the risk.
When evaluating risk, it is best to identify all possible hazards first, then evaluate the risk of injury from each hazard. Do not assume the risk is low until you evaluate the hazard. It is dangerous to overlook hazards.
Job sites are especially dangerous because they are always changing in construction and electrical work. Many people are working at different tasks and job sites are frequently exposed to bad weather. A reasonable place to work on a bright, sunny day might be very hazardous in the rain. The risks in your work environment need to be evaluated all the time. Then, whatever hazards are present need to be controlled.
Once electrical hazards have been recognized and evaluated, they must be controlled. You control electrical hazards in two main ways:
One way to implement this safety model is to conduct a job hazard analysis (JHA). This involves development of a chart:
Controlling electrical hazards (as well as other hazards) reduces the risk of injury or death.
OSHA regulations, the NEC, and the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) provide a wide range of safety information. Although these sources may be difficult to read and understand at first, with practice they can become very useful tools to help you recognize unsafe conditions and practices.
Knowledge of OSHA standards is an important part of training for electrical apprentices. Check out the following OSHA publications for more information:
A maintenance man rode 12 feet above the floor on a motorized lift to work on a 277-volt light fixture. He did not turn off the power supply to the lights. He removed the line fuse from the black wire, which he thought was the “hot” wire. But, because of a mistake in installation, it turned out that the white wire was the “hot” wire, not the black one. The black wire was neutral. He began to strip the white wire using a wire stripper in his right hand.
Electricity passed from the “hot” white wire to the stripper, then into his hand and through his body, and then to the ground through his left index finger.
A co-worker heard a noise and saw the victim lying face up on the lift. She immediately summoned another worker who lowered the platform. CPR was performed, but the maintenance man could not be saved. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
You can prevent injuries and deaths by remembering the following points:
This video by Joe Tedesco covers basic electrical safety including definitions. Great review for everyone.
This WorkSafeBC video deals with the dangers of working near overhead and underground powerlines. Dramatic footage and computer animation show what can happen if you or someone on your job site accidentally contacts an energized powerline.
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