I teach two mottos in my electrical safety classes:
Don’t get shocked. Don’t get burned.
If you have attended one of my classes, you might remember hearing those mottos at least once. Those two sentences guide my teaching style and have motivated me to continue instructing every year. The passion I try to put in my teaching is hopefully a demonstration of how much I care about the livelihood of every electrical worker.
After a year like 2020, we all need some encouragement and hope. My hope is that everyone reading this will strive to make 2021 a great year by looking outward rather than inward. Watch out for your brothers and sisters in the electrical industry. Don’t be afraid to speak up when something looks wrong on the job. Speak words of encouragement to those around you in the moment.
Happy reading, and, most of all, here’s to a better 2021.
1. I will check my workplace for scene safety.
I will check for job-site scene safety. I will look in all directions for otherwise unseen hazards.
Just like an emergency responder is taught to do when rolling up to a vehicle accident scene, electrical personnel should follow the same thought process in identifying all site hazards prior to approaching the work area.
Look for anomalies, listen for strange sounds, and smell the environment for electrical burning or other odors indicative of a potential equipment or process failure. If your mind triggers a red flag, STOP and check the scene thoroughly!
2. I will not rush the process of creating an electrically safe work condition.
No amount of pressure from a supervisor, a customer, or a family member to get the job done quickly, before I feel that the job is safe, is worth my life. I must keep my priorities in check. Too many injuries and fatalities have already occurred in exact situations like these. I do not need to become a statistic.
3. I will exhaust all avenues before attempting to work live or "HOT."
Working a circuit energized is, in most cases, not required. We in the industry simply must get away from any hint of “bragging rights” about working on an energized circuit. If at all possible, in my work situation, I will de-energize the circuit, verify it dead, and lock it out.
4. Even when I am certain the mains are shut off, I will use my electrical gloves to test before touching.
In our electrical safety training, we can never stress enough the importance of this advice. Commit to performing live-dead-live checks on any electrical circuit you work on prior to touching wiring or components.
A live-dead-live check consists of these steps:
- Verifying your electrical meter works on a known live circuit,
- testing the de-energized circuit to verify zero energy state both phase-to-phase and phase-to-ground,
- and re-checking your meter again on a known live circuit.
5. I will maintain my equipment.
If I am uncertain how to do this, I will ask the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) what is required. Just because my plant is a year old does not mean that maintenance is not yet required.
With a little research, information on required maintenance can be acquired and adopted into the electrical maintenance program. In the rare cases where this information is not available, resources like NFPA 70B and NETA/MTS 2019 can be used to set up a good maintenance program.
6. I will inspect power strips and extension cords for damage and replace any damaged cords.
Anywhere there are extension cords and heavy equipment in close proximity, there is a chance that the cords will become damaged due to contact. Even if a cord has been in the same place for years and has never caused a problem, I will not assume it is OK. I will inspect it anyway.
SIDE NOTE: OSHA does not recommend simply taping abrasions and cuts for this reason:
Section 1926.403(a) requires that “all electrical conductors and equipment shall be approved.”
As with any repair, items being repaired must be brought up to the item’s listing and labeling parameters. This is impossible to do with damaged extension cord insulation. The only true option is cord replacement once you find insulation damage.
As stated in the following OSHA article, slight nicks or abrasions that do not damage the inside conductor insulation are not considered to be a “worn or frayed” condition.
7. I will test GFCIs per manufacturer's instructions.
Yes, it really does say on the package, “Test Monthly.”
Why do I need to do this? Because I do not know when one may fail — and I don’t want to find out when it’s too late.
This testing is true for the newer “self-testing” GFCIs. These units have built-in circuitry that performs internal circuitry checks but cannot test the physical movement of the GFCI trip unit. This must be done by a manual push of the test and reset buttons.
SIDE NOTE: GFCIs are required to be installed anywhere there may be contact with water, such as bathrooms, garages, kitchen countertops and unfinished basements. They need to be installed in outdoor locations. Do not forget specialty areas like drinking fountains, vending machines, aircraft hangars, and a host of other locations. You can find specific requirements in the National Electrical Code. Refer to Article 210.8 (2020 version).
Of course, always refer to the code version that is legally adopted by your state.
8. I resolve to further my knowledge on electrical safety.
My employer has the responsibility of providing PPE and training. My responsibility is to use those resources in keeping myself safe and encouraging co-workers to do the same. I commit this year to becoming a life-time student of electrical safety.
Electrical Safety Workshop is going virtual in 2021. Join us and other safety-minded professionals online in March for the 2021 Electrical Safety Workshop!