While many of us are aware of the dangers that can exist in the workplace with industrial or office machinery, repetitive motion injuries, and even active shooters, electrical injuries tend to be an underreported risk. Given how many electrical injuries occur in the workplace each year, employers need to raise awareness of the issue.
The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) collects information on fatal and nonfatal occupational electrical injuries using the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) and Survey of Occupational Injuries (SOII). The ESFI reported 126 electrical fatalities in 2020, which represents a 24 percent decrease from 2019 and the lowest number of electrical fatalities since ESFI began compiling data in 2003. (At the same time, it’s important to note that there was a 10 percent reduction in total hours worked in the U.S. during that same period, largely due to the global COVID-19 outbreak). There were also 2,220 electrical nonfatal injuries reported, which represents a 17 percent increase from 2019. These injuries cost employees and employers lost days of work as well as medical costs.
The ESFI found that while the mining industry was responsible for the most electrical injuries, these mishaps were also common in the construction as well as the installation, repair, and cleaning industries. Essentially, anywhere workers are operating tools or machinery, there is a risk of electrical injury. So how can you reduce the chances your employees will be hurt due to exposure to electricity? There are some steps you can take and best practices to observe.
Get all machinery serviced and inspected regularly. Often, problems with machinery that might not be visible to an untrained eye are the source of electrical injuries. Ensure that all machinery your employees might use is being regularly serviced and inspected by someone who understands its installation and operation.
Educate your employees. Ensure that you are sharing safe operations information for all machinery and tools used by your employees. Conduct regular safety updates to ensure all employees stay refreshed on the information, and that new employees understand how to operate machinery safely. Make a rule that employees who aren’t trained to operate a machine properly stay behind a safety line.
Conduct a risk assessment. The ESFI offers a self-assessment electrical safety evaluation tool. You’ll be guided through a series of questions that will help you assess the effectiveness of your electrical safety program and identify areas that may require further examination. Essentially, it works as a checklist for your electrical safety program. Even if you have a good, solid electrical safety program in place, you will likely uncover a few areas that could use some improvement. You can find the ESFI self-assessment tool here.
Hire a workplace safety expert. A company that is dedicated to workplace safety can help you craft a formal electrical safety plan and train your workers to observe best practices.
Unishield has been providing businesses throughout Southern California with the highest quality workplace safety training and compliance solutions and emergency supplies since 1996. Call 800-480-5855.