Electric
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Electricity can be one of the most dangerous forces lingering around construction sites, renovation projects and even workshops. OSHA estimates that an average of 300-350 people die every year from on-the-job electrical incidents.

Since electricity is such a major part of our modern lives, hidden hazards can lurk anywhere. People involved with job sites must take precautions and always be aware of potential dangers. Here are some ways they can reduce their likelihood of injury:

Understanding Currents

Electricity works by flowing from a power source such as a hydroelectric dam or high-voltage capacitor through conductors like wiring and into an end device where the energy is converted to work. This flow from a source to a destination is called a current. Currents occur because there is a larger distribution of electrons towards the source than there is at the ending. This uneven distribution is referred to as “voltage,” and it determines the ability of the conducting wire to deliver electricity. Some compare voltage to the pressure of water being forced into a hose.

When someone gets electrocuted, they become a part of this current. The voltage difference between the human body and the source wire causes the electricity to run through the body and into any other available conductor, such as a piece of metal, the ground or wet materials. Since the current needs an exit point to course through the body, electrocution victims may not even realize they are touching a live current until they touch another conducting source.

Water

Wet job sites pose the biggest danger for electrocutions. Water mixes with salts and other environmental substances to become an excellent conductor, presenting a high risk of electric shock. Avoid working in the rain or wet conditions, and ensure that workers are dry and well-insulated when they must work where water is present, such as when using a wet tile saw.

Equipment

Damaged equipment is another major danger to workers. Frayed power cords or faulty internal wiring can cause electricity to leap from the device, through the user’s hands and into their body.

  • Visually inspect all power cords and extension cords
  • Use Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) to reduce the chance of shock
  • Pay attention to signs like flickering lights or tripped GFCIs and circuit breakers to identify potentially damaged equipment

Electrical Sources

Overhead power lines are incredibly dangerous, especially when heavy equipment is being used. Workers should be insulated against electric shock traveling from their equipment to their bodies. They should also take extreme precautions to avoid making contact with electrical wiring or sources like service entrance risers, which are an entry point of municipal power lines into a home.

Other dangerous sources include transformers, capacitors and unshielded circuit breakers. Restrict access to areas like these to prevent unauthorized people from entering. Lockout and tagout procedures should also be observed for industries where servicing or repairing high-energy equipment is a common task.

Electrocution Victims

Even low voltage currents can be enough to damage organs, cause severe burns or stop the victim’s heart. Clear the victim away from the power source as soon as you can and have them seek medical attention immediately. The consequences of electric shock are not always obvious, so even if the victim regains consciousness they may have underlying medical issues that must be addressed.

Respect the power electricity holds, and be acutely aware of how seemingly mundane objects can cause serious harm. Only through consistent education and oversight can employers reduce the chances of electrocution for their workers.

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