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Electrical Safety Overview

Learning Objectives

  • Explain how electricity works regarding hazards on the job
  • Describe basic safety controls and practices at work
  • Identify and explain how to respond to electrical emergencies

Available in English

The goal of the lesson is to provide an overview that prepares workers to work safely with and around electricity. This lesson does not address arc-flash hazards and controls, lock-out/tag-out procedures, or high voltage (220V or 440V) electrical safety.

Approximately 230 electrical related fatalities occur each year. In one study, National Institute for Occupation Safety & Health (NIOSH) found that, “61% of electrocutions occur in two occupation divisions: 46% among craftsmen and 15% among laborers. These two groups also had the highest rates of electrocution death: 1.4 per 100,000 workers each.

According the NIOSH, “Electricity is the flow of an atom’s electrons through a conductor. Electrons, the outer particles of an atom, contain a negative charge. If electrons collect on an object, that object is negatively charged. If the electrons flow from an object through a conductor, the flow is called electric current. Voltage is the fundamental force or pressure that causes electricity to flow through a conductor and is measured in volts.”

How fatal electrical accidents typically occur in the high-risk workforce, is when an aerial lift or boom, or scaffolding set up, results in the unexpected connection with a power line, creating a circuit.

Electrical hazards can cause burns, shocks and electrocution (death).

  • Assume that all overhead wires are energized at lethal voltages. Never assume that a wire is safe to touch even if it is down or appears to be insulated.
  • Never touch a fallen overhead power line. Call the electric utility company to report fallen electrical lines.
  • Stay at least 10 feet (3 meters) away from overhead wires during cleanup and other activities. If working at heights or handling long objects, survey the area before starting work for the presence of overhead wires.
  • If an overhead wire falls across your vehicle while you are driving, stay inside the vehicle and continue to drive away from the line. If the engine stalls, do not leave your vehicle. Warn people not to touch the vehicle or the wire. Call or ask someone to call the local electric utility company and emergency services.
  • Never operate electrical equipment while you are standing in water.
  • Never repair electrical cords or equipment unless qualified and authorized.
  • Have a qualified electrician inspect electrical equipment that has gotten wet before energizing it.
  • If working in damp locations, inspect electric cords and equipment to ensure that they are in good condition and free of defects, and use a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).
  • Always use caution when working near electricity.
  • Electrical Safety Summary
  • OSHA 29 CFR 1910.330-335: Electrical Safety-Related Work Practices Standards
  • National Fire Protection Association Standards NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, 2012
  • OSHA 29 CFR 1910.332: Training