How can I Avoid Electrical Injuries at Work?

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Electrical Injuries

Electrical injuries happen in private homes, public places, and worksites, and can cause traumatic, life-changing injuries. On their own, people might not know how to avoid these kinds of injuries. One example that comes to mind is a person standing in a puddle of water in the bathroom and plugging in a hairdryer. In workplaces though, the risk of getting electrocuted is higher. The inherent hazards of workplace electricity usage include arcing, grounding, electric current, lack of guarding, and high voltages. Direct contact with electrical currents can be fatal. Electrical burns may look minor but can cause internal damages. The currents can also lead to tissue, nerve, and muscle destruction or cardiac arrest. Besides that, many employees get seriously hurt because they fall after getting electrocuted.

Companies are responsible for keeping their employees safe and need to have the proper safety protocols in place, but sometimes they do not fulfill this duty as they should. That is only half the story, though; enforcing these rules and worker compliance are both just as important. A team effort is the best way to avoid electrical injuries at work, and learning the basics is a good starting point.

What are the Basics of Electrical Safety?

As mentioned, it is never wise to touch anything electrical when standing in water, or when your hands are wet. Instead, wear rubber shoes whenever in a wet area and dry your hands. Also be sure to keep metal objects such as screwdrivers away from outlets, and keep unused outlets covered at all times. Electrical cords should be in good shape; if they are broken, frayed, or having missing prongs, they should be discarded. Never overload sockets, either; use a power board that has a safety switch, with one only per wall outlet. Also remember to test safety switches at least once a year. When you do need to unplug something, pull the cord out by the plug rather than the cord itself.

Also remember to avoid running an electrical cord under a rug or furniture, and be sure to keep away from downed power lines and utility poles. If you ever get a shock or tingle around cords, outlets, or electrical equipment, contact an electrician immediately. When someone has been electrocuted, no one should be within 20 feet of them until the power is shut off. If their body is still touching the electricity source, they should be touched with bare hands. Also do not break blisters or remove dead skin from burns; never apply ice, ointments, adhesive bandages, butter, or fluffy cotton dressings to a burn. It is safer to wait for medical help to arrive. This is all helpful advice to build a foundation for electrical safety, but things become more complex in other kinds of workplaces, especially industrial and construction sites.

Ways to Avoid Electrical Injuries at Work

There are additional preventative measures for workplaces that should be followed in addition to the basics described above. At the start of every day, electrical hazards should be identified. To do this, safety managers can be responsible for labeling these things clearly for others. Employees should also be provided with the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) for working around electricity and should also be aware of the type of clothing to wear. For face and head protection, nonconductive hardhats are best whenever there is the risk of electric burns or shocks. Face shields with goggles may also be necessary, depending on the kind of work. Long pants, long sleeves, and other clothing should be made from rated, for different kinds of fire hazards, natural fiber to protect the rest of the body. Other PPE includes hearing protective inserts, rubber-insulating gloves, and rated boots.

Workers should also avoid stapling or nailing extension cords onto anything, as this can be very dangerous. Electrical tape is the best thing to use for these purposes. In addition, remember to frequently inspect the electrical cords that you use, because they can cause shocks and fires when damaged. Should an outlet feel unusually hot, this could be a symptom of bad wiring; again, contacting an electrician is your safest bet.

If you work around electricity and use ladders, be sure to only use ones made from non-conductive materials such as fiberglass or wood; avoid using metal ladders. Also, keep all your equipment away from energy sources, and only use equipment that is specific to the job you are doing. Put away anything that is not being used.

What Does OSHA Require for Electric Safety?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has very specific guidelines for workplace electrical safety. Every employee who is at risk for electric burns, shocks, or related injuries must be trained in safety practices. Some of OSHA’s requirements for certain workplaces include the following:

  • Being able to distinguish exposed live parts from different parts of electrical equipment
  • Knowledge of approach and/or clearance distances
  • Being able to determine nominal voltages, voltage classes, of live parts

OSHA and other safety advocacy groups promote so-called top-down programs, work environments where function follows form. In other words, having a safety-focused work environment with the proper physical hazard preventions in place will lead to the workers performing more safely. OSHA also has great deal of electrical safety information on its website, with links to information about topics such as working around downed electrical wires, working around trees, handling generators, and cable trays, to name a few. Lockout/tagout procedures are also important for workplace electrical safety. OSHA mandates that employees de-energize electrical equipment whenever it is being serviced. This way, no one will be able to turn on the equipment during this time.

How Else can My Company Protect Me from Electrical Injuries?

Modern companies employ the use of technology to protect their workers from electrical accidents. An online, wireless monitoring system is a great way to assess the conditions of electrical assets. The data can be shared to apps and software for workers to use in real time. Whenever there is a problem, alarms can alert electrical technicians that something needs to be addressed. If this happens, other workers’ exposure should be minimized until the issue is fixed.

Daily inspections are also crucial and can be performed in person and with a monitoring system. One employee can handle ultrasound, infrared, and visual inspections at the same time, and transmit the important information to other employees. This can also lessen the need for extensive PPE, protect inspectors from the risk of flash/electrocution, and accomplish the tasks faster and more efficiently. The collected inspection data can be shared through a dashboard system that workers can see right on their mobile devices, and this information can limit their risk exposure.

Your employer should also have an established, tested emergency plan for dealing with electrical emergencies. This should include who is responsible for specific tasks, first-aid procedures, and when to call 911. When electrical emergencies happen, the power to that area should be shut down right away; this is often done at the circuit breaker. On a worksite though, there could be temporary power hookups that have their own emergency shut-offs. If no one knows where that shut-off is located, the emergency situation could quickly escalate.

Yet even if there are safety protocols and emergency plans in place, employees who are not properly trained can easily get injured. Employees need to have thorough training for all the equipment they will be using, and the company should also be providing comprehensive electrical safety training. This training needs to be refreshed and reinforced on a regular basis.

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton can Help if You Had an Electrical Injury on the Job

Workplace electrical accidents can cause very serious injuries, with accompanying, overwhelming medical bills. You should not have to face all of this without sound legal guidance from a trusted professional. Reach out to the knowledgeable Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton to understand your options. We can offer experienced legal advice and will fight to protect your rights. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.