Tips to prevent electrical shock
Accidental electrocution continues to be a significant cause of occupational death. Personnel need to be provided with adequate safety training courses and managers, particularly those running smaller companies, convinced of the need for safety training. Amongst the highest rates of occupational deaths are engineering, construction, mining, fishing, agriculture and the forestry industries.
At one time or another, most us have experienced some form of electric ‘shock’. If we are lucky, the extent of that shock is limited to tingles or jolts of pain from static electricity leaving our bodies. When we are working around electric circuits able of delivering high power to masses, electric shock becomes a much more serious issue, and pain is the least significant result. But good working habits can prevent electrical shock and accidental electrocution, resulting in a safer workplace.
Good work habits
Many electrical injuries could be avoided if individuals were alert to hazards. Use these tips for a safer workplace:
- Take accountability for noticing, reporting and correcting electrical hazards.
- Take a few extra minutes to inspect your equipment (ie, cords for wear) and keep your working area clean and dry to avoid shock and fire hazards.
- Always use and maintain wiring, tools and equipment properly. If you are unfamiliar with the equipment, ask a professional and/or read the instruction manual.
- When cleaning electrical equipment, make sure it’s unplugged and follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions.
- If outside or near a wet location, make sure tools and extension cords are suitable for outdoor use and circuits are equipped with GFCIs.
- Never carry a tool by its cord.
- Cords should be kept loosely coiled and in a dry environment.
- Be alert of energised areas when reaching into equipment.
- Always verify the absence of voltage and use insulating gloves and tools.
- Shields, barriers, insulation and GFCIs are there to protect you, so don’t modify them just to get a job done quicker.
- Learn and use your company’s lockout-tagout procedures.
- Uncoil an extension cord completely before using it and ensure that the amperage marked on it is appropriate.
- Don’t use faulty equipment. Discontinue using equipment immediately if it gives off a mild shock, unusual heat or an odd smell. When in doubt, it’s safer to have it checked, repaired or replaced.
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
PPE is your first line of protection against shock and electrical burns and it can save your life.
- It is extremely important to keep gloves, boots and other equipment in excellent condition — even a pinhole will let electricity through.
- Rubber insulating gloves are amongst the most important articles of PPE for electrical workers. Gloves need to incorporate dielectric properties and physical strength, along with flexibility and durability.
- Wear non-conductive protection on your head, face, hands and feet.
- Use insulated tools or handling equipment, such as non-conductive ropes and protective shields.
- Dirt and sogginess increase the risk of shock. Keep your PPE clean and dry.
In the field of electrical safety, new technical requirements and systems are frequently changing, so it makes sense to keep up to date on current codes of practice and take the necessary precautions to make your workplace a little safer.
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