With great (electrical) power comes great responsibility
Electrical hazards are among the potential dangers encountered on a construction site. Workers (and visitors) may be exposed to serious events such as fire, explosions or arc flash accidents, causng electric shock injuries, electrical burns and even electrocution death.
Safe work practices and awareness will go a long way toward preventing accidents and serious injury, along with using protective equipment and maintaining your electrical tools properly.
De-energize electrical equipment
A break or gap in the insulation of an electrical tool or machine may cause metal parts to become energized and conduct electric current. Power cords and extension cords should be checked before operating the tool. Another way to defend against a potentially dangerous event is to make sure there is a path for stray current — a low-resistance grounding wire from the machinery to the ground, or a grounding strap worn on the wrist for handheld tools that may be energized or compromised.
Prevent accidental equipment startup
Lockout-tagout procedures required by OSHA are meant to protect workers against the unexpected startup of electrical equipment, including specific recommendations for construction applications. Before beginning any inspection or repair job, electric current must be turned off at the switch box and the switch padlocked in the OFF position (or breaker box padlocked). Maintenance of electrical equipment should be performed by trained and qualified electricians.
Use caution around overhead power lines
The first rule in working around overhead power lines is to maintain a safe distance. In the case of high-voltage lines, equipment that can be energized, such as cranes, should be grounded. The owner or operator of the lines is responsible for making sure that the lines have been de-energized and grounded before anyone begins to work on them. Employees who are not qualified to work with electricity should keep at least 10 feet away from power lines. If any mechanical devices need to be operated near the lines, people standing on the ground should not touch the equipment unless it is in a safe zone.
Be aware of electrocution hazards
Electric shock or electrocution death can result when electric current passes through the human body, and this is a major reason for taking great care when working around overhead power lines. You could be electrocuted through contact with energized sources like electrical equipment, exposed wiring that is not capped or contained in an electric box or conduit, or through the improper use of extension cords. Be vigilant and take care around faulty electrical outlets and old wiring, and remember that water is a strong conductor of electricity.
When accidents occur
It’s not just electricians and utility company workers who get injured in electrical accidents. Anyone at a construction site is at risk. It is essential to learn all you can about preventive measures to reduce the danger to yourself and to others. If you notice a potential electrical hazard or OSHA violation, you have a duty to warn co-workers and notify your supervisor.
Accidents do happen. If you have suffered an electrical accident or other work-related injury, an experienced attorney can help you assert your rights to full medical and wage benefits through a workers’ compensation claim.