The world knows a lot about electricity. Humankind knows how it’s made, how to use it, and humans even have a rudimentary understanding of how to store it.
And while experts understand electricity, they also know to respect it.
Because even before Ben Franklin inexplicably survived his interaction with a key, a kite, and a bolt of lightning, humans have known electricity is dangerous.
What follows are ten of the most common causes of electrical death and injury. The reader should take heed; each of these represents a preventable mishap.
Much like poor or inadequate communication, or mislabeled wires, these hazards are rooted in human behavior. In fact, another type of article could simply list “human error” as a single major cause of electrical mishaps.
There can be accidents wherever there are humans and electricity; here are some of the most dangerous situations.
- Overhead power lines
In the United States, nearly 46 percent of fatal workplace electrical mishaps are caused by contact with overhead wires.
Conversely, overhead wires are involved with only two percent of non-fatal mishaps. Those statistics are a grim reminder of the danger posed by overhead power lines; they pose an exceptional danger to the life of anyone who comes in contact with one.
- Lockout/Tagout Failure
Lockout/Tagout literally means to lockout circuits during construction and other electrical work. And the process works well; OSHA estimates that nearly 50,000 injuries2 are prevented every year by using proper procedures.
Solutions such as Panduit’s full line of lockout/tagout equipment make it easier to comply with safety procedures. Check out the line here.
- Damaged tools and equipment
Damaged equipment and faulty tools cause 37 percent3 of non-fatal workplace electrical mishaps. Whether it’s an old electric hand tool, one that’s been dropped, by the time it starts smoking, it’s been dangerous for a long time. Regular checks, maintenance, and awareness are critical to keeping tools safe in the workplace.
- Overloaded circuits
The National Fire Protection Association (U.S.) estimates that more than $1.4 billion4 in property damage is caused by overloaded circuits in homes every year.
Commercial statistics are difficult to come by, but what’s certain is that overloaded circuits cause an enormous amount of damage to commercial and residential property all across the globe. It’s a problem that’s easily solved by accurate labeling.
Panduit labeling solutions make this safety step quick, easy, and a must-have for any commercial application.
- Damaged insulation
Mice chew on wires. So do squirrels. But even without a plastic-munching rodent problem, wires can be damaged when they rub on other surfaces.
Repeated wear on the wires can break the insulation, allowing electric current to escape. Much of this abrasion can be eliminated with a good pest control program and using abrasion protection products like these.
- Inadequate wiring and terminations
Non-home structure fires involving electrical failure or malfunction accounted for an estimated annual average of 12 civilian deaths5, 210 civilian injuries, and $614 million each year from 2010-2014. Some of that damage and loss of life can be prevented simply by terminating wires correctly. Learn how here.
- Exposed electrical parts
Inadequate labeling, poor equipment condition, and even user error can cause electrical parts to be exposed, posing a significant risk to safety.
Clear communication and labeling, along with using high-quality products at every turn is a critical step to reducing the thousands of injuries caused every year by exposed electrical parts.
- Improper grounding
Improper grounding is the #1 electrical violation according to OSHA. It’s often overlooked and poorly understood. The Panduit line of grounding solutions makes grounding a simpler task with a complete line of tools and products.
- Qualification of the “qualified” electrical worker
NFPA 70E and OSHA regulations instruct that electrical circuits or equipment with at last 50 volts of electricity must be covered, protected, or made inaccessible to everyone except “qualified electrical workers.”
That worker is considered “qualified” when they have attained the training and experience to be familiar with the construction and operation of the equipment, along with any hazards. But that vague definition allows for a huge range of experience. Only with an ongoing safety program can any organization determine its workers are “qualified.”
- Verification for Absence of Voltage
Test lights are decades old technology. But meeting the challenges of today’s regulations and expectations means using a tool that’s permanently installed, like Panduit’s VeriSafe.
VeriSafe minimizes risk by verifying the absence of voltage before equipment is accessed, making it easier for qualified electrical workers to identify an electrically safe environment in a fraction of the time of hand-held portable test instruments. Learn more about VeriSafe, and how you can meet the NFPA 70E requirements here.
1 (Source: Brenner B, Cawley JC (2009). Occupational Electrical Injury and Fatality Trends: 1992-2007. EHS Today. Available at: http://ehstoday.com/construction/news/occupational-electrical-injury-3991. Accessed 01/19/2018, via https://www.nfpa.org/News-and-Research/Fire-statistics-and-reports/Research-reports/Electrical-safety/Occupational-Injuries-from-Electrical-Shock-and-Arc-Flash-Events accessed 1/18/2018)
2 (Source: EFSI.org, https://www.esfi.org/resource/lockout-tagout-your-life-depends-on-it-544 accessed 2/12/18)
3 (source: https://www.nfpa.org/News-and-Research/Fire-statistics-and-reports/Research-reports/Electrical-safety/Occupational-Injuries-from-Electrical-Shock-and-Arc-Flash-Events accessed 1/18/2018)
4,5 (source: NFPA fact sheet, accessed here: https://www.nfpa.org/News-and-Research/Fire-statistics-and-reports/Fire-statistics/Fire-causes/Electrical-and-consumer-electronics/Electrical accessed 1/25/18)
6 (source: Office of Compliance, Congressional Accountability, fact sheet. https://www.compliance.gov/sites/default/files/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Exposed-Energized-Wiring-Fast-Fact-Feburary-2010.pdf accessed 1/25/18)