Electrical safety is vital for those that work in the field.
Which voltages are safe for work? With many electrical incidents, current is the critical factor that determines safety, with Ohm’s Law (V=IR) deciding the outcome. Individuals have been electrocuted at voltages of 110 volts AC and 42 volts DC, while currents nearing 100mA through the heart can cause ventricular fibrillation, which can result in death.
According to OSHA, electrocution is considered one of the “Fatal Four” causes of death in the workplace. There are, on average, 800 electrical workplace deaths annually.
Electricians and electrical engineers are typically well versed on the “Dos and Don’ts” of electrical systems, but mechanical engineers, maintenance personnel, managers and salesmen are also highly likely to encounter electrical systems and may not have had as extensive training.
Here are some electrical safety tips for engineers and personnel. Please note, if you are unsure of an electrical environment, always seek a knowledgeable person to assist you.
Mistakes happen, and systems can be wired incorrectly or mislabeled improperly. External factors such as bad line power, bad grounds or other electrical loads can also reflect back to the current system.
Moisture is dangerous when it comes into contact with electrical systems, and spills or condensation are immediate red flags. Other things to observe include panel location, dangling or messy wires and the location of safety and shut-off devices. (Also read, Recalibrating Safety Training: 4 Steps to a Safer Jobsite for additional information.)
While this is not always possible or practical, it is the best way to mitigate risk.
When servicing a machine, most plants require an electrician who knows the system or someone who can respond to the electrical incident to be present.
Safety equipment can range from full electrical suiting to properly insulated tools. Always use recommended safety equipment and check for holes in electrical suits or gloves. Likewise, be sure to use insulated tools without chips or scratches in insulation. Additionally, use surge protectors or electrical tools with proper safety shut-offs. It is also crucial to have a reliable multimeter. Keep in mind that a $10 unit battery checker may not have the proper fusing to protect you from high-current systems.
When building or servicing a panel, adhere to the following equipment recommendations:
If you are leaving your workspace for any amount of time, make sure it is safe for another person to come service the machine. A LOTO (lock-out-tag-out) may be required in many plants. You should also properly terminate wires and remove bypass of safety devices.
If you are working near, on or selling electrical components, please take the time to familiarize yourself with your specific systems, taking the time to always read manuals. Never assume that any system is safe.
To learn more about workplace safety and electrical standards, visit OSHA’s website today.