Construction is a rewarding business, but it can also be a dangerous business if your project, equipment and crew are not prepared for safety. To help reduce the risk of workplace accidents, injuries and deaths, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) identified the top construction hazards, called the Fatal Four. This post addresses another one of the four fatal construction hazards: electric shock. Are you wondering how to prevent electric shocks at work and put safety first? Follow these seven tips.
- Use the right equipment. Double-insulated tools are designed for environments with a high risk of electric shock. These safer tools have a layer of electrically resistant material (such as rubber or plastic) along with a layer of conductive material (such as metal). The combination adds a layer of protection between live wires and the operators. To combat the risk of electric shock, OSHA also enforces ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) standards. GFCI devices compare the amount of current entering electrical equipment with the amount of electrical current returning. If a safety limit is exceeded, the device helps break the circuit in a few milliseconds to reduce the risk of electric shock.
- Know where nearby power lines are located. Before breaking ground on a project, learn where both overhead and underground power lines are located. If there are power lines near your project, work with the local utility company to de-energize as many hazardous lines as possible. If this is not possible, work with non-conductive tools to keep your crew safe.
- Inspect tools before use. Wear and tear of equipment is natural. But it can be dangerous if you don’t look at items before using them. Always check things like power cords for exposed, worn or damaged parts. Encourage your team to get into the habit of proactively inspecting equipment. If you notice signs of wear and tear, do not plug in the equipment for use as this could result in serious injury or death.
- Use personal protective equipment (PPE). Add another layer of protection for your team with PPE. Shock-resistant equipment such as rubber gloves and insulated clothing can reduce the risk of electric shock. Make sure the PPE matches the voltage level your crew is working with and encourage team members to inspect their PPE before use, just as they do with equipment.
- Add lockout/tagout procedures. Lockout/tagout protocols protect your crew from the release of hazardous energy from energy sources such as electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal, and other sources in machinery and equipment. OSHA’s lockout/tagout protocol helps team members disable machinery or equipment to stop any hazardous energy release.
- Practice, practice, practice. Safety training is always important, but it can be lifesaving in dangerous tasks like working with electricity. Whenever new team members join (and before they come to work), conduct comprehensive safety training/demonstrations. Take safety a step further by holding annual or semi-annual refresher courses for your entire crew and by completing first aid/CPR training. Everyone can benefit from safety reminders, especially when they could save someone’s life.
- Look at the weather. Since severe weather and electrical equipment don’t mix, implement protocols for when the forecast takes a turn for the worse. Consider padding project timelines to account for weather delays and make sure your crew knows what to do when it’s windy.
Now that you know how to prevent electrical shock in the workplace, learn how you can protect your crew from another one of OSHA’s Fatal Four hazards: falls. Learn six fall prevention tips for contractors, then talk to one of our local, independent agents to get complete protection through any construction project.