Electricity is nature’s most versatile form of energy. Electrical power lights our homes, streets, offices and factories. The power of electricity can be dangerous if it’s not used correctly. Electrical energy can damage property and ignite fires. It can also hurt and even kill.

Sound safety practices help minimize electrical hazards and cut down the risk of accidents. The hazard of electricity cannot be eliminated, but it can be controlled though education and engineering. The more you understand about electrical energy, the safer you’ll be.

Cause of Electric Shock
You can get an electric shock if you touch a grounded surface and hazardous electrical equipment at the same time. The shock happens when the flow of current (amperage) from the electrical equipment goes through your body to the ground. How serious the injury depends on what part of your body receives the current. It also depends on how long the electric current flows. Just a small amount of amperage can hurt or be fatal.

Ask and Protect Yourself
Are you aware that only trained, qualified and authorized employees are permitted to work on electrical equipment?

Has an electrician inspected your equipment, tools, machines and lights to make sure they operate according to electrical code requirements?

Are extension and appliance cords in good repair and properly rated for their intended use?

Are you using three-prong receptacles for three-prong plugs?

Are you protecting circuits with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI)?

Are you closing electrical control panels and covering receptacle boxes?

Do you avoid touching water, damp surfaces, ungrounded metal and bare wires if you aren’t protected?

Do you avoid working in and around wet or damp conditions, equipment and electrical currents that aren’t grounded, and wires that aren’t insulated?

Do you use equipment and tools in the manner that they are designed?

Do you immediately report any damaged or defective equipment, power tools and machinery?

Do you look for posted signs that identify electrical hazards?

Do you follow lockout/tagout procedures?

Wear the Right Protection
Don’t wear metal jewelry that might make contact with electric current.

Wear eye protection where required.

Wear rubber-soled shoes or boots on damp or wet surfaces.

Wear safety-approved rubber and leather gloves when working with electricity.

Hazard Checklist
Check the surrounding area for spills, dampness or water.

Check that connections and ground wires are tight and free from breaks.

Check that circuits and wiring are in good repair and not overloaded.

Check insulation for worn spots or breaks that could cause a shock.

Check the condition of cords and extension cords.

Check and maintain equipment to make sure it’s working right and free of defects or damage.

Check equipment belts and gears to detect excess tension or binding that can cause a power overload.

Check that personal hand and foot protectors are kept in good repair and readily available.

Immediately report hazards or damaged and defective equipment, tools and machinery to a supervisor or manager.

Electrical Emergencies
For high-voltage electricity: Contact the police and emergency medical services.

Notify your supervisor or follow the emergency instructions spelled out in your company policy.

  • Do not touch a person who has come in contact with high-voltage electricity.

  • Do not use a tool to free the person.

For low-voltage electricity: Contact emergency medical services.

  • Don’t touch anyone who has become grounded.

  • Switch off power at the fuse or circuit-breaker box, or pull the plug.

  • Call the electric company if you can’t shut the power off.

This article is courtesy of the National Safety Council. For more information, visit www.nsc.org.