#259 Electrical Hazards

Workers are injured or killed every year in California due to occupational accidents involving uncontrolled exposure to electricity. When shortcuts are taken and safe procedures are not followed, loss of life, permanent disfigurement, lost work time, increased workers’ compensation costs, and lawsuits can occur. As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 163 workers died from injuries from contact with electric current in 2010. 76 workers died from overhead power lines in the same year.

A worker was electrocuted from accidental contact with an overhead power line. The victim was carrying a metal ladder upright to his work van. The foreman and several of his co-workers observed and verbally warned him about the overhead power line. However, several seconds later, the victim’s ladder made contact with the overhead power line and the victim fell to the ground suffering fatal injuries.

With all electrical equipment operations, there is the threat of shock and/or electrocution. Electrical workers are potentially exposed to a variety of hazards such as electric shock (the most common hazard), arc flashes, falls, and thermal burns. When you receive an electric shock, an electric current runs through your body because the body has become a conductor for electricity. Electrocution occurs when enough current flows through your body to cease the functions of vital organs and causes burns to muscular and skin tissues.

What can you do to protect yourself and others from electrical hazards? Employees can prevent shocks and injuries/electrocution from electrical hazards by:

  • Understanding electric shock and electrocution
  • Recognizing potential hazards around work involving electricity
  • Following Cal/OSHA requirements
  • Maintaining clearances around panels
  • Using proper protective devices
  • Eliminating access to exposed energized parts
  • Using proper PPE
  • Using proper lockout/tagout procedures
  • Maintaining proper clearance from overhead lines
  • Following proper procedures for confined space/enclosed space /underground electrical work
  • Following manufacturer’s instructions
  • Following safe work practices