Managing electrical hazards to prevent losses

Electrical hazards account for thousands of injuries, fatalities, and property losses each year. Although most accidents are preventable through proper safety controls and training, electrical accidents remain one of the leading causes of death in the workplace. Business owners who are proactive in mitigating hazards are more likely to prevent accidents that can harm their employees, customers, and business.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) indicated that most electrical accidents are caused by one of the following three factors:

  • Unsafe equipment or installation
  • Unsafe environment
  • Unsafe work practices

Business owners and employers can take action to manage electrical hazards and prevent losses and injuries. The lists below are not comprehensive but can provide a starting point for your safety practices. Consult with local authorities and licensed contractors for a full list of requirements applicable to your business.

Address unsafe equipment and installation hazards

  • Ensure electrical equipment is installed correctly and maintained at regular intervals.
  • Check electrical cords and plugs regularly for damage, including fraying, exposed wires, missing or bent prongs, etc. Remove damaged cords from service immediately and replace them accordingly.
  • Do not use temporary electrical cords (i.e., extension and flexible cords) as permanent wiring solutions; if needed, consult a licensed electrician about developing a permanent solution.
  • Ensure that all electrical junction boxes, panels, switches, and receptacles are appropriately covered and sealed. If they remain exposed, dirt and moisture can damage the components, resulting in equipment failures and potential fire/safety hazards.
  • Contact a licensed electrician to evaluate all electrical equipment to ensure it meets current codes and safety regulations. Repair or replace any components that pose a hazard.

Control hazards that create an unsafe environment

  • Develop and implement electrical equipment inspection and maintenance schedules that include addressing environmental hazards.
  • Install ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) on all electrical outlets within six feet of any water source and other critical areas. This device can protect people from shock due to a short circuit, insulation failure, or equipment malfunction.
  • Keep combustible storage and materials away from electrical equipment and appliances to prevent fires. Materials may include flammable gases, vapors, or liquids; combustible dust; and ignitable fibers.

Prevent unsafe work practices

  • Train employees on recognizing electrical hazards, reporting dangerous conditions, and practicing good judgment to prevent injuries
  • De-energize electric equipment before inspection or repair
  • Use lockout and tag-out procedures to ensure that the equipment remains de-energized
  • Exercise caution when working near energized lines
  • Use appropriate protective equipment
  • Keep electric tools adequately maintained

For more information on controlling electrical hazards, visit OSHA’s website at https://www.osha.gov/electrical.

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

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