The Power to Protect Yourself
Running above our heads or under our feet, through our homes and places of work, electricity is circulating all around us to provide power, light and information. We may rarely give this reliable source of energy we depend on day and night a second thought, but our safety around the potential hazards of electricity demands our respect and regular attention. May is National Electrical Safety Month, and Keenan joins with the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), public utilities, and trade organizations in promoting greater awareness of how to stay safe around electricity.
According to ESFI, more than 30,000 workers have been injured in workplace electrical accidents over the past ten years. Although electricity is not the most frequent causes of occupational injuries, such events are more often fatal and result in costly workers’ compensation claims. Prevention, through training and following proper procedures is essential to protect workers and facilities:
- Only individuals who are qualified and specifically trained should conduct work or repairs to electrical systems. Qualifications are defined in NFPA 70E, the standard for electrical safety in the workplace.
- Before working outside, look above and around the area for any electrical lines. This applies even to workers who do not work with electricity such as gardeners, painters, and cleaning crew.
- Always use strict lockout/tagout procedures when working on electrical equipment and wiring to prevent someone from inadvertently turning on power to circuits being worked on.
- Maintain a 36” clearance around any electrical panel or equipment.
- Test before you touch. Turning off the power may not render a circuit safe in all instances; some components may store energy without connection to the mains. Use personal protective equipment and test the circuit. Then verify that the testing device is operating properly.
- All electrical hazards should be reported and corrective action taken immediately by qualified individuals to protect lives and property. This includes everything from a damaged electrical outlet to water around a high-voltage junction box.
Many of these same precautions apply just as well at home as they do at work. Never attempt electrical work in your home you are not qualified to perform. It’s far better to call a licensed electrician than to have to call 911. In your everyday household use of electricity, remember these points:
- Be sure you plug an appliance into an outlet that can handle the power requirements of that appliance.
- Before you plug anything in, check the cord for any damage to the wires, insulation or connectors. Have any damaged cords repaired or replaced immediately.
- Keep all electrical appliances, such as hair dryers, radios and shavers away from sinks, tubs and toilets containing water.
- Electrical outlets in kitchens, laundry rooms and bathrooms, as well as all outdoor outlets, garages, crawl spaces, and unfinished basements must be protected by a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) to help prevent electrical shock.
- Never enter a flooded or flood-damaged basement until electrical power has been turned off.
These are only a few of the considerations for keeping yourself, your family, and coworkers safe around electricity. Your best practice is to always treat every electrical component – from a small appliance, to a breaker panel, to a downed power line – as if it is live. The seconds you take to think about what you are going to do next could be lifesaving.
About Eric Preston
Eric Preston is Vice President, Loss Control Services at Keenan. He leads a statewide team of specialists assisting clients with services to reduce hazards, and improve property & casualty loss experience.