#YHSafetyTips - Electrical Safety

Posted by Ashley Bechtel in #YHSafetyTips, Apr 12, 2017

Do you know the dangers of working with electricity? The risk of electrocution is not the only danger that you face. You also have to be aware of potential fires and explosions as well. This week, we will cover how to recognize a potential hazard and how to stay safe when working around electrical equipment, including power lines, as well as what guidelines OSHA has put in place.

Understanding Electricity

Electricity flows through conductors including metals, water, the earth, and even the human body. It must have a complete circuit or path to flow. Let's consider an electric saw that one might encounter on a construction site. The complete circuit that the electricity follows is restricted to the power source, the power cord, and the tool. If any of these parts are damaged and results in an interruption of the electrical circuit, the person operating the saw will become part of that circuit and will be shocked.

Common Electrical Hazards

  • Improper grounding
  • Exposed electrical parts
  • Inadequate wiring
  • Overhead power lines
  • Damaged insulation
  • Overloaded circuits
  • Wet conditions
  • Damaged tools and equipment

What is Grounding?

Grounding is the process used to eliminate unwanted voltage and is a physical electrical connection to the earth. This process greatly reduces the risk of being shocked or electrocuted.

Tips to reduce risk of electric shock

  1. Make sure that you ground your electrical equipment properly. Grounding is the process of eliminating unwanted voltage. It is a physical connection to the earth.
  2. Never use an electrical panel that has exposed wires.
  3. Use properly rated extension cords.
  4. Do not hang extension cords from nails or sharp objects. This can damage the cord, resulting in a higher risk of electric shock.
  5. If you notice damaged insulation on your power cords, do not use the tool. Do not attempt to fix the damage with tape of any kind.
  6. Use proper circuit breakers
  7. Never overload your circuits or outlets. Using an overloaded circuit or outlet can cause a fire.
  8. Do not use damaged or broken electric tools.
  9. If working in wet conditions, after a rain storm for example, do not use any kind of power tools. Water greatly increases the risk of electric shock.
  10. Avoid contact with overhead powerlines.

Protecting yourself

If you or your workers will be in contact with electricity, it is a good idea to invest in PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). Hard hats, rubber or insulating gloves, and insulating clothing can all come in handy when working with electricity. Keep in mind that metal hard hats should not be used around electricity, as metal is a conductor.

Before using electrical equipment

Before you use any electrical equipment, including power tools, you should inspect it and the cord for cracks, damaged insulation, broken ground pins, frayed line cord, loose parts, and any other kind of damage that may be present. Do not use the equipment if you find any kind of damage.


OSHA requires the use of GFCIs on all construction sites. So, what is a GFCI? It is a fast-acting circuit breaker that can sense small imbalances in the circuit caused by current leakage to the ground. They look for a difference of approximately 5 milliamps and will match the amount of current coming and going to an electrical device.

To view more tips directly from OSHA, you can view their quick card on "Electrical Safety" by clicking here.

Did you miss last week’s post on Ecotoxicology- Safety? You can find it here

Check back next week when we discuss CPR.

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