All electrical equipments are potentially hazardous and can cause serious shock and burn injuries if improperly used or maintained. Electricity normally travels through electrical conductors which may be in the form of cables, wires or parts of the human body. Electrocution is the second biggest killer of employees in general industry in the United States. Most electrical fires are from defective equipments, inadequate wiring of equipment, overloaded circuits, substandard repairs or alterations. If a part of the body comes in contact with the electrical circuit, a shock will occur. The electrical current will enter the body at one point and leave at another. The passage of electricity through the body can cause great pain, burns, destruction of tissue, nerves, and muscles and even death.
Some common electrical hazards include: ungrounded equipments (creating a low resistant path to earth through ground connection); overloaded extension cords or outlets; use of non-approved equipment; use of defective or frayed electrical cords, improperly installed cord for electrical equipment and exposed live cords to mention a few.
There are three basic levels of protection to ensure you work safely around electricity:
- Ø Engineering controls: Involve adjusting design of equipment to prevent shock hazards or injuries such as insulation using a material (rubber, glass, some plastics) with little or no conductive properties to put a barrier between you and the current flow. Most metals and moist skin offer very little resistance to the flow of electrical current and can easily conduct electricity. Other substances such as dry wood, ceramic, or pottery, rubber offer a high resistance and can be used to prevent the flow of electrical current.
- Ø Safe work practices: These practices can be developed through training and providing safe work procedures for workers.
- Ø Personal protective equipment (PPE): An extra line of defense by reducing the impact of the hazard. Use the appropriate PPE for the job together with the safe work practices and engineering controls.
The following tips on identifying and preventing electric shock or injuries can be applied in the office or at home and can be shared with family and friends to ensure we prevent all accidents associated with electricity:
- · Secure all cables and cords around your work area or home with a duct tape along the wall so they don’t pose trip hazard.
- · Remember, a clean work area is a productive work area; keep tools clean and arranged
- · Electrical appliances can pose fire hazard risks. Be sure to turn off all appliances at the end of the day or when going out or travelling
- · If electrical equipment malfunctions or gives off a strange odor, switch off immediately then call the appropriate maintenance personnel.
- · Promptly disconnect and replace cracked, frayed, or broken electrical cords.
- · Keep extension cords clear of doorways and other areas where they can be stepped on or chafed and never plug one extension cord into another.
- · Don’t fasten extension cords with staples, hang from nails, or suspend by wire.
- · Use special insulated tools when working on fuses with energized terminals.
- · Don’t use equipment with worn or frayed cords and cables.
- · Plugs should fit securely into outlets, but never force a plug into an outlet if it doesn’t fit.
- · Check for outlets that have loose-fitting plugs, which can overheat and lead to fire.
- · Always inspect tools and equipment before you work.· Do not work within ten (10) feet of overhead power lines carrying up to 50kilovolts of electricity.
If some of these tips are applied while working with electrical equipment, electric shock and electrical injuries termed "the bite" can be prevented.
Written by O’ Reese on behalf of En-pact Solutions Limited, 2013
Twitter: @O Reese2