Every year, workers suffer electric shocks while using portable electric tools and equipment in workplaces. The injuries these workers receive range from minor burns to electrocution. For more than a hundred years, electricity has been widely recognized as a serious workplace hazard, exposing employees to electric shock, burns, fires, and explosions.
It doesn’t take much to cause an electrical injury. Current through the body, even at levels as low as three milliamperes, can cause injuries, either directly or as indirect or secondary injuries in which involuntary muscular reaction from the electric shock can cause bruises, bone fractures, and even death resulting from collisions or falls.
How Does the Workplace Become Electrically Unsafe?
Faulty electrical connections may be because of improper installation, or they may experience damage over time. Some unsafe electric equipment and installations can be identified by the presence of faulty insulation, improper grounding, loose connections, defective parts, ground faults in equipment, unguarded live parts, and underrated equipment.
The workplace environment can also be a contributing factor to electrical accidents in a number of ways. Environments containing flammable vapors, liquids, or gases; areas containing corrosive atmospheres; and wet and damp locations are some unsafe environments affecting electrical safety. Finally, accidents can happen because of failure to de-energize electric equipment when it is being repaired or inspected or the use of tools or equipment too close to energized parts.
Protecting the Workplace from Electrical Accidents
There are several ways employers can ensure that workers are protected from safety incidents involving electricity. These include:
Preventing electrical equipment from contacting water. Whether it’s a routine workplace process that involves the use of water, or simply a roof leak from rain, it’s critical that devices and machinery that use electricity are protected from getting wet and are inspected regularly for moisture.
Be mindful of electric cords. Many workplace accidents involving electricity stem from faulty electric cords. When you’re plugging in or unplugging equipment and machinery, ensure that cords are wall plugs are undamaged. In addition, teach workers never to pull on cords to unplug devices but instead grasp the plug to pull it from the wall or a power strip.
Don’t overload. Ensure that there are enough electrical sockets in the workplace so that you can avoid overloading electrical sockets or extension cables.
Avoid do-it-yourself electrical work. Electricians are highly trained professionals for a reason: there is a significant amount of workplace and home safety riding on their expertise. Avoid using workers who aren’t professional electricians to do electric work. Amateurs are unlikely to understand safety standards and Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.
Investigate flickering lights. Are the lights flickering in the office? There may be a reason for this that involves an electrical fault, and it’s important to get it checked out before letting workers into the building.
Establish shut-off procedures. Make sure that employees can clearly identify and easily access the “off” switches on your workplace’s fixed electrical devices, so they can be turned off quickly and safely in the event of an emergency.
Hire a Workplace Safety Consultant
Workplace safety consultants are experts in implementing programs that will help protect employees from hazards such as faulty electrical equipment. These consultants can help train your personnel on safety processes and compliance, and help you build an enforcement program and a tracking program for any injuries that do occur during working hours.
In Southern California, Unishield has been providing businesses with the highest quality workplace safety training and compliance solutions for employers. In addition, Unishield offers first aid kits and medical supplies, first aid restocking services, industrial safety equipment, and portable emergency medical equipment such as the lifesaving AED (automatic external defibrillator). Call 800-480-5855.