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Safety is part of every job, but it’s especially important when working with or near potentially energized electrical equipment.

Each year, around 1,000 people die in electricity-related accidents.

More than half of these deaths have occurred in cases where the voltage was below 600 V. Under the right conditions, as little as 50 V can be fatal.

This article briefly examines some of the approaches that can be taken to minimize the hazards of working with electricity.

1. Avoid being part of the circuit

Never place yourself in a position where you could be part of a circuit. If you are not part of the circuit, the electricity will have to find another way to go.

(Photo: Be sure to wear proper safety gear when working with electricity; Credit: Shutterstock)

To avoid being part of the circuit, you must follow good working practices and use the specialized safety equipment available.

A variety of safety equipment is designed specifically for use around live electrical circuits. Some of these amenities include:

Ground cables: Placing a ground wire over equipment and connecting it to a ground (for example, a water pipe or a designated ground) creates a path of least resistance through the ground wire and reduces the risk of your body becoming a path . Some equipment incorporates earth connections as part of the installation.

Insulating material: When you must work with or near live electrical equipment, place an insulating material between you and the live components. For example, wear special rubber gloves designed to withstand high voltages. Protective sleeves and shoulder protectors can also be used.

You can also place rubber mats around or over potentially live components and on the floor where you will stand.

Some rubber materials contain carbon, a conductor of electricity. Therefore, only use rubber materials specially designed and labeled for use with energized equipment.

It is always important to personally examine protective gear for damage such as cuts and holes. Faults will reduce the insulating value of the equipment and put you at risk.

Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI): Power tools and equipment (for example, drills, grinders, or saws) should be connected to a GFCI. These devices are designed to protect you if a faulty circuit develops in the equipment. Additionally, always inspect power cords, extension cords, and drop lamps on your tools for damage, exposed wires, and altered connections.

Low voltage equipment: When working in humid or dangerous places, use low voltage equipment (12 V or 24 V) if possible. Even if a problem occurs when using low voltage equipment, serious injury is unlikely.

2. Use lockout / tagout procedures

The best way to avoid being injured in an electrical accident is to turn off the circuit. If the circuit is de-energized, there is no voltage source and the possibility of shock or electrocution is eliminated.

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires a procedure known as lockout / tagout.

This method is used to ensure that once a circuit has been de-energized, it cannot be re-energized without the knowledge and permission of the person who established the lockout / tagout.

Locking out involves placing a lock on the part of the machine that controls energy, thereby locking the energy control device in the off position.

Any type of lock can be used, but the lock should not be used for any other purpose.

A label is placed on the device to indicate that it is powered off. The labels can be attached by hand, but they cannot be reused.

They can be self-locking but must require at least 50 pounds of force to release.

Paragraph 3 of the Canadian Electrical Code 2-304 describes lockout / tagout requirements in Canada.


Photo: If there is an incident and someone is involved, the first step in helping them is to separate them from the source of the tension. This is best accomplished by removing power from the affected circuit; Credit: Shutterstock

3. Take emergency measures

Damage to equipment and property is secondary when it comes to human lives.

Therefore, if emergency conditions caused by faulty electrical equipment occur, they should be dealt with in the following order: Turn off any threat to human safety or human life, and then deal with threats to the equipment and others. materials.

Human involvement: When a person becomes the path of least resistance for an electric current, that person must first be separated from the voltage source. This is best accomplished by removing power from the affected circuit. Opening a circuit breaker or flipping a switch may be enough.

However, if the circuit cannot be de-energized within a short time, the person should be removed from contact with the source.

Under no circumstances do you, the rescuer, try to touch the person receiving the shock. You too could be part of the circuit.

Instead, use an insulating material such as dry wood or a dry rope to push or pull the person away from contact with energized equipment.

After separating the person from the power source, first aid measures must be taken.

The first step is to call for help. Use a nearby phone to call 911 or other appropriate emergency number. Frequently, a person’s heart stops as a result of an electric shock.

If this happens, properly trained personnel should begin CPR immediately. If there are signs of thermal burns, these should also be treated by qualified personnel.

Fire or explosion: When an electrical fault causes a fire or explosion, the first action is to contact the appropriate emergency response personnel. This may involve calling 911 or your factory’s local emergency contact point.

If possible, remove power to the affected equipment. Often, simply opening the circuit causes the fire to be extinguished. If you are trained to do so, you can attempt to extinguish the fire using an appropriate extinguishing agent.

Electrically powered fires are Class C fires and require a non-conductive extinguishing agent such as carbon dioxide.

Dry chemical extinguishers can also be used on electrical fires. When dealing with an electrical fire, you should only use an extinguisher specified for Class C fires.

Keep in mind, however, that once the power to the burning electrical equipment has been removed, it is no longer a Class C fire and other extinguishing agents may be. used.

It is essential to be well informed about the dangers of electricity and the importance of safety when working around electricity.

You can use this knowledge in your home or at work. Make sure that you and those you supervise always wear appropriate personal protective equipment and follow safe work practices.

This article is adapted from BOMI International Electrical systems and lighting under the SMA® and SMT® designation programs.

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