Electrical Hazards

Electrical Hazards can be averted, if safety requirements are asserted.
Every year tens of thousands of people are injured or killed from electrical shocks or contacts in the United States. Employees are exposed to dangers such as electric shock, electrocution, burns, fires and explosions. It is essential to understand that electricity is lethal for us and how we can save our lives.
Electricity has long been recognized as a serious workplace hazard!

It’s extremely important to train your employees on electrical hazards that may be present at a work place and should always be part of your work plan and hazard analysis. Training plays a very important role in the prevention of employee’s injuries and deaths. Training must include instructions on how to de- energize electrical equipment before inspecting and repairing, lock out/tag out procedures, using personal protective equipment, and how to use chords, cables and electrical tools properly. Employees must be trained with safety related work practices according to their respective job assignments.

  • Learn about types of injuries that may result from contact with electricity.
  • Learn methods of protection from electrical hazards.
  • Study training and other essential factors associated with electrical safety.

In the window cleaning industry, we use and work with water every day. It’s essential for window cleaning technicians to know and understand how water affects the flow of electricity and creates risks. 

Pure water is a poor conductor. But small amounts of impurities in water like salt, acid, solvents, or other materials can turn water itself and substances that generally act as insulators into conductors or better conductors. Dry wood, for example, generally slows or stops the flow of electricity. But when saturated with water, wood turns into a conductor. The same is true of human skin. Dry skin has a fairly high resistance to electric current. But when skin is moist or wet, it acts as a conductor.

This means that anyone working with electricity in a damp or wet environment needs to exercise extra caution to prevent electrical hazards. When working on extension ladders, Mobile Lifts or using Water Fed Poles and extension poles, you always have to be careful of overhead power lines.

How can you protect yourself from overhead power lines?

Be aware of the dangers of working near or underneath overhead power lines. Electricity can flash over from them, even though machinery or equipment may not touch them. Before working under or near overhead power lines, ensure that you maintain a safe distance to the lines and, for very high-voltage lines, ground any equipment such as cranes that can become energized. If working on power lines, ensure that the lines have been de-energized and grounded by the owner or operator of the lines. Other protective measures like guarding or insulating the lines help prevent accidental contact. Employees unqualified to work with electricity, as well as mechanical equipment, should remain at least 10 feet away from overhead power lines.

When mechanical equipment is operated near overhead lines, employees standing on the ground should avoid contact with the equipment unless it is located outside the danger zone. When factoring the safe standoff distance, be sure to consider the equipment's maximum reach.

Guidelines to remember:
  • Always assume the powerlines are energized.
  • Use wood or fiberglass ladders, avoid metal ladders. 
  • Stay at least 10 feet away from power lines.

What is the best way to protect yourself against electrical hazards?

Most electrical accidents result from one of the following three factors:

  • Unsafe equipment or installation.
  • Unsafe environment.
  • Unsafe work practices.
  • Lack of Training.
  • No work plan.
  • Inadequate PPE.

Some ways to prevent these accidents are through the use of insulation, guarding, grounding, electrical protective devices, safe work practices, training, work plan (identifying Risks/Hazards) and proper PPE.

What protection does insulation provide?

Insulators such as glass, mica, rubber, or plastic used to coat metals and other conductors help stop or reduce the flow of electrical current. This helps prevent shock, fires, and short circuits. To be effective, the insulation must be suitable for the voltage used and conditions such as temperature and other environmental factors like moisture, oil, gasoline, corrosive fumes, or other substances that could cause the insulator to fail.

How do you identify different types of insulation?

Insulation on conductors is often color coded. Insulated equipment grounding conductors usually are either solid green or green with yellow stripes. Insulation covering grounded conductors is generally white or gray. Ungrounded conductors, or “hot wires," often are black or red, although they may be any color other than green, white, or gray.

Before connecting electrical equipment to a power source, it's a good idea to check the insulation for any exposed wires for possible defects. Insulation covering flexible cords such as extension cords is particularly vulnerable to damage.

What protection does personal equipment offer?

Employees who work directly with electricity should use the personal protective equipment required for the jobs they perform. This equipment may include rubber insulating gloves, hoods, sleeves, matting, blankets, line hose, and industrial protective helmets designed to reduce electric shock hazard. All help reduce the risk of electrical accidents.

There are four general elements that are critical to the development of a successful safety and health management system:
  • management leadership and employee involvement,
  • worksite analysis and work plans
  • hazard prevention and control
  • safety and health training

  • You can find the following Electrical Safety training and certified courses through the IWCA’s on line Safety Website. IWCA.org
    • OSHA Alliance WFP Safety
    • Toolbox Talk on Electricity
    • Campus IWCA E-Learning Course – Electrical Safety
    • Professional Window Cleaning Contractors “Field Safety Guide
    • OSHA 10 & 30 General Industry Safety Certification

    You have the POWER to follow Electrical Safety

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