National Electrical Safety Month blog image

In May, we celebrate National Electrical Safety Month (NESM) by emphasizing the importance of prioritizing the safety of your team members through strict adherence to electrical safety protocols. As contractors, we need to ensure the health and safety of our workers from all hazards, including what OSHA calls the “fatal four.”

According to OSHA, the top 4 contributors to workplace injuries and fatalities are:

  • Falls
  • Struck-By
  • Caught-By/In-Between
  • Electrocution

According to a 2022 Bureau of Labor Statistics report on Fatal Occupational Injuries, exposure to electricity accounted for 7% of workplace fatalities. Out of those, 81 fatalities occurred from direct contact with electricity, likely causing electrocution. Our primary goal is to prevent these types of incidents by implementing proactive safety measures and fostering a culture of workplace safety.

The goal of National Electrical Safety Month is to provide education and tips to reduce electrical fatalities, injuries, electrically related fires, and more. Below, we’ll go beyond the basic electrical safety protocols and offer key workplace safety tips to help you stay proactive. We’ll also explore best practices to comply with OSHA regulations and foster a culture of electrical safety on all of your job sites and work projects.

The Hidden Dangers of Electrical Work

While most workers must perform electrical work as a fundamental part of the job, they cannot ignore the inherent risks it carries. Contractors need to be aware of these dangers and take safety measures to avoid electrical injuries and keep their workers safe. By identifying potential electrical hazards, contractors can significantly reduce the risks associated with electrical work. 

An electrical panel with a danger sign to ensure precaution for workers and bystanders

Here are some of the biggest hidden risks with electrical work:

  • Faulty Wiring: Over time, wiring can degrade due to age, improper installation, or damage. 
  • Overloaded Circuits: Construction sites often rely on extension cords and temporary power sources. However, when too many devices are plugged into a single circuit, it can become overloaded.
  • Improper Grounding: Grounding systems are crucial for safety, channeling excess electricity away in case of a fault. 
  • Damaged Insulation: Insulation protects wires from short circuits and shocks. Worn, cracked, or damaged insulation, hidden beneath floorboards or behind drywall, can create a serious electrocution risk.
  • Water Exposure: Electricity and water are a dangerous combination that can lead to fatal injury. 
  • Improper PPE and Handling: Handling electrical components can be part of the job. Failure to comply with personal protective equipment and handling regulations can also lead to serious injury.

Issues Caused by Electrical Power Mishaps

Electrical problems are not only dangerous on their own, they have the potential to create a variety of safety concerns for your crew.

For example, sparks that fly from faulty wiring can lead to overheating, arcing (sparks that jump between conductors), and preventable fires

Additionally, hidden electrical risks such as inadequate grounding, concealed within walls or obscured behind panels, pose the risk of electrocution if a worker inadvertently encounters a live wire.

Moreover, the looming presence of overhead power lines adds another layer of complexity and danger. This demands heightened vigilance and adherence to safety protocols to prevent accidents and ensure the well-being of your workforce.

These interconnected dangers underscore the importance of comprehensive electrical safety protocols to mitigate risks and safeguard your team against potential harm.

The Key to Electrical Safety Compliance

Now that we have identified the main risk factors and their consequences, let’s focus on strategies and safety tips to prevent them.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs)

Ensure all receptacles (sockets and outlets) on construction sites are GFCI-protected. These devices trip and cut off power in milliseconds of a ground fault, preventing serious shocks.  

Regular receptacles can be used as long as the GFCI device is “upstream” (toward the circuit breaker) from your regular outlet and the GFCI device can protect “downstream” (away from the circuit breaker) devices.

To ensure proper functioning over time, it’s essential to correctly install the GFCI device and outlet, conduct regular inspections, and use them correctly.

Extension Cords: Using the Right Cord the Right Way

Inspect extension cords regularly for damage and overloading. Use only cords rated for the intended use and environment, such as weatherproof cords for outdoor applications. 

You’ll want to avoid running them through doorways or under carpets, which can cause damage and overheating.

Electrical Panel Safety: Restricted Access, Expert Work

Qualified electricians should be the only ones working on electrical panels. These areas should be clearly labeled and maintained as restricted access zones to prevent accidental contact with live wires. 

Require Specific PPE for Electrical Work

If the job site requires specialized electrical work or work involving sparks, ensure your crew utilizes the correct equipment for the job. 

According to Safety Culture, compliant equipment includes: 

An illustration of various types of electrical PPE for National Electrical Safety Month
  • Earplugs – for hearing protection
  • Eye and face wear – such as protective glasses and face shields 
  • Hard hats – with electrical insulation 
  • Hand and arm protection – including rubber lineman, insulated gloves, and sleeves with additional insulation 
  • Foot and leg protection – such as dielectric overshoes 
  • Body protection – flame-resistant and arc flash-resistant

Be sure to follow up with meetings to establish protocols and proper use of each piece of equipment. Our team offers a specialized PPE training kit to help protect your team while on the job. 

Communication is Critical 

Provide clear and comprehensive electrical safety training to all workers. This should include hazard identification and safe work practices.  

Regular electrical safety training helps workers recognize potential dangers and empowers them to make safe decisions on the job.

Beyond Compliance: Building a Culture of Safety

While compliance is crucial, true safety goes beyond meeting regulations. Here’s how to create a lasting safety culture

Toolbox Talks: Regular Reminders, Continuous Improvement, and Incentivization

Integrate regular electrical safety discussions into your toolbox talks, facilitated by qualified safety managers. Discuss recent incidents from the industry or your projects, potential hazards specific to the current job site, and best practices for various electrical tasks. 

You can also incentivize and recognize positive choices by rewarding workers who consistently demonstrate safe electrical work practices. 

This positive reinforcement encourages others to prioritize safety, and recognize and avoid electrical hazards, while reinforcing the desired behaviors on your projects.

Create a Space for Electrical Safety and Compliance

By prioritizing electrical workplace safety, we protect our workers, avoid costly downtime due to accidents, and contribute to a positive safety record—a valuable asset in today’s competitive market.

This National Electrical Safety Month, make electrical safety a core value on your projects. Remember, informed and equipped workers are the greatest safety measures your team has. 

How We Can Help Beyond National Electrical Safety Month

Our team can provide comprehensive Electrical Safety Training Kits, equipping your team with the knowledge and skills to confidently navigate potential hazards. Contact us today to learn more.

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