What Safety Precautions Should I Take When Working with Electrical Equipment?March 8, 2021
When working with electrical equipment, it is extremely important that workers understand the hazards associated with this type of equipment, and the safety precautions they should take to avoid serious workplace injuries. Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment, which includes training workers about the specific dangers of electrical equipment; providing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE); and ensuring that all electrical equipment is maintained, and that any old or malfunctioning equipment is repaired or replaced as soon as possible.
Workers must also follow the recommended safety precautions when using electrical equipment. If a worker sustains a personal injury while using any type of electrical equipment, he or she may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits. Employees who have suffered an electrical injury should reach out to an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer for assistance.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), electrical accidents in the workplace are a common cause of occupational injuries. In fact, there are over 3,700 electrical accidents each year that cause a range of injuries. As a result of the injury, workers miss multiple days of work. In addition, the construction industry alone accounted for over 50 percent of all electricity-related fatalities in the workplace. Although the total number of deaths due to electrical accidents has gone down in recent decades, serious burns, fires, explosions, and electrocutions in the workplace continue to occur.
What are the Basics of Electrical Safety?
Depending on the work environment, the types of electrical equipment that workers may use will vary greatly. For example, office environments will use lighting, computers, printers, copiers, and other small appliances, whereas warehouse or construction workers will use a range of different types of electrical tools and machines. In addition, they may work with generators, circuit breakers, transformers, and panel boards. Regardless of the type of equipment, if it is used improperly or unsafely, it can cause serious workplace accidents. The following are safety recommendations that all workers should keep in mind when working with electrical equipment:
- Make sure that all electrical outlets and wall switches are covered with cover plates and replace any that appear damaged.
- Check the insulation of the cords and wires to ensure that they are in good condition.
- Read the manufacturer’s instructions on how to properly use the equipment.
- Check all electrical devices for damage, including the inside of a tool or appliance. If there is a damaged wire inside a tool and a worker uses the tool, it can be like touching a bare wire.
- Use extension cords, but only on a temporary basis.
- Use a high-quality surge protector that has enough sockets for every tool or piece of equipment.
- Keep all electrical devices and equipment away from water. Do not handle electrical tools when hands are wet.
- When working with electrical equipment, flag the fuse or breaker switch so that no one touches it. If a worker is unsure about which circuit they will be working on, they should turn off the main breaker or remove the primary fuse cartridge.
- Assume every electrical device is energized, even if it appears to be unplugged or not operational.
- Always unplug electrical equipment before repairing them or performing any service.
- Only use electrical tools that have non-conducting handles.
- If any liquid is spilled on a piece of electrical equipment, shut the power to the equipment using the main switch or circuit breaker. After the power has been shut off, unplug the equipment.
- Follow the workplace rules on the proper use of electrical equipment.
- Only qualified workers should use energized equipment.
- Report all electrical problems immediately.
Many workplace accidents involving electrical equipment are due to human error. The following are examples of things that employees should avoid doing when working with electrical equipment:
- Never touch an active electrical circuit.
- Do not use a power strip that does not have overcurrent protection.
- Do not wear any type of metal, including jewelry, when using or standing near electrical equipment.
- Do not attempt to fix or repair electrical equipment with a pencil or other object that may contain metal.
- Do not overload motors, circuits, or outlets.
- Avoid running cords along the floor, or under carpets.
- Do not leave machinery running while unattended.
- Never use machinery if it smokes, sparks, or smells.
- Do not stand closer than 10 feet to power lines.
- Never reach blindly into a space that could contain energized electrical equipment.
What are Common Causes of Electrical Accidents in the Workplace?
There are a range of factors that can cause electrical accidents, many of which can be avoided by taking the necessary safety precautions and ensuring that all equipment is in good working order. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the following are the main causes of electrical accidents:
- Faulty equipment
- Poor installation
- Dangerous surroundings
- Hazardous work routines
- Shortage of safeguard against ground fault
- Unsafe use of equipment
- Hazardous practices when using extensions or flexible cables
- Obstructions along the path to the ground
What Types of Injuries are Caused by Electrical Equipment?
Accidents involving electrical equipment can cause a range of injuries, including the following:
- Burns: These are the most common injuries associated with the use of electrical equipment. Burn injuries occur when the heat produced by the flow of electric current flows through the body. A serious electrical burn can cause tissue damage, as well as damage to the limbs and internal organs. Severe burns require immediate medical attention and may require reconstructive surgery and extensive rehabilitation. Victims of burn injuries are also susceptible to serious infections. In some cases, severe burns can lead to the loss of limbs; in extreme cases, burns can be fatal.
- Arc burns: This occurs when electrical energy passes from a high-resistance area to a low-resistance area. The hands, head, and feet are the most common contact points for arc burns. Depending on the severity of the burn, they can cause widespread tissue damage.
- Internal injuries: When an excessive amount of electricity moves through the body, it can cause tissue damage, nerve and muscle damage, internal bleeding, irregular heartbeat, and cardiac arrest.
- Involuntary muscle contractions: A serious electrical shock can cause the victim to lose muscle control or experience violent involuntary muscle contractions. This can be extremely dangerous if the worker is on a ladder, scaffolding, or other elevated surface where he or she could fall.
- Scarring and disfigurement: A severe burn can cause extensive scarring, which may require multiple reconstructive surgeries to correct.
How can I Avoid an Electrical Equipment-Related Injury in the Workplace?
Safety should always be a top priority in the workplace, regardless of the work environment. However, employees who work with electrical equipment should take extra precautions to avoid serious injuries. By following these safety tips, workers who use electrical equipment on a regular basis can prevent serious or even fatal injuries:
- Identify the hazards that may be present, including electric shock and arc flash hazards.
- Use the appropriate tools for the job.
- Complete the necessary lockout tagout procedures before working with a piece of equipment.
- Test each circuit and conductor every time before touching it.
- Wear protective clothing when necessary.
- Use insulated tools in areas where there may be electrical hazards.
- Isolate equipment from energy sources.
- De-energize electrical equipment and conductors when working on electrical equipment.
- Assume that de-energized electrical equipment and conductors are energized until the lockout tagout, testing, and ground procedures have been completed.
What Benefits can I Receive for My Injuries?
Workers’ Compensation provides financial compensation for workers who have been injured while on the job. The following financial benefits are available for workers who suffered an injury while working with electrical equipment:
- Medical expenses: These expenses include doctor’s appointments, hospitalization, care provided at a burn center, prescription medications, rehabilitation, physical therapy, and any other medical expense related to the workplace injury.
- Lost wages: If the injury prevents the employee from being able to come to work for an extended period, they will receive a percentage of their salary for a specified amount of time. These benefits are paid in weekly installments.
- Compensation for a lost body part: If the injury resulted in the loss of a limb or another body part, the worker may be entitled to compensation for permanent scarring and disfigurement.
- Death benefits: If a worker suffers a fatal injury, the surviving family members may be entitled to death benefits, including funeral expenses and a percentage of the deceased’s weekly salary for a specified period.
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Victims of Electrical Injuries
If you or a loved one was injured while working with a piece of electrical equipment, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. Depending on the severity of the injury, you may require extensive medical care and compensation for lost wages. We will walk you through every step of the claims process, address all your questions and concerns, and ensure that you receive the maximum financial benefits you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online. Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.