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OSHA - May is electrical safety month

image Joann Natarajan, Compliance Assistance Specialist, OSHA, Austin, TX

AUSTIN - Many workers are unaware of the potential electrical hazards present in their work environment, which makes them more vulnerable to the danger of electrocution. The following hazards are the most frequent causes of electrical injuries Contact with Power Lines, Lack of Ground-fault Protection, Path to Ground Missing or Discontinuous, Equipment Not Used in Manner Prescribed, and Improper Use of Extension and Flexible Cords.



    Overhead and buried power lines at your site are especially hazardous because they carry extremely high voltage. Fatal electrocution is the main risk, but burns and falls from elevations are also hazards. Using tools and equipment that can contact power lines increases the risk.
    How Do I Avoid Hazards?
•    Look for overhead power lines and buried power line indicators. Post warning signs.
•    Contact utilities for buried power line locations.
•    Stay at least 10 feet away from overhead power lines.
•    Unless you know otherwise, assume that overhead lines are energized.
•    De-energize and ground lines when working near them. Other protective measures include guarding or insulating the lines.
•    Use non-conductive wood or fiberglass ladders when working near power lines.
    Due to the dynamic, rugged nature of construction work, normal use of electrical equipment at your site causes wear and tear that results in insulation breaks, short-circuits, and exposed wires.  If there is no ground-fault protection, these can cause a ground-fault that sends current through the worker’s body, resulting in electrical burns, explosions, fire, or death.
    How Do I Avoid Hazards?
•    Use ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) on all 120-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles, or have an assured equipment grounding conductor program (AEGCP).
•    Follow manufacturers’ recommended testing procedure to insure GFCI is working correctly.
•    Use double-insulated tools and equipment, distinctively marked.
•    Use tools and equipment according to the instructions included in their listing, labeling or certification.
•    Visually inspect all electrical equipment before use. Remove from service any equipment with frayed cords, missing ground prongs, cracked tool casings, etc. Apply a warning tag to any defective tool and do not use it until the problem has been corrected.
    If the power supply to the electrical equipment at your site is not grounded or the path has been broken, fault current may travel through a worker’s body, causing electrical burns or death. Even when the power system is properly grounded, electrical equipment can instantly change from safe to hazardous because of extreme conditions and rough treatment.  Removing the ground pin from a plug to fit an ungrounded outlet not only means your work area is unsafe, but makes the cord unfit for future work where there is grounding.

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