When you were a youngster, your parents told you to never stick anything into an electrical outlet. That little nugget of advice has been passed down for generations, and probably will be until wall sockets become obsolete.
But, just because we’re all grown up doesn’t mean we can safely ignore the rule to “be careful!” around electricity. On the contrary. Jobs that require use of electricity also require thorough understanding of how to do so safely.
Completing the Circuit
An electrical current wants to find the easiest route to the ground. If you’re the one who completes the circuit from the electrical source to the ground, you get shocked. That’s why a bird perched on an overhead power line won’t get a shock, but the person standing on the ground touching the power line with a metal ladder will.
The type of circuit, voltage, the path through your body, and the duration of contact determine the after-effects of your exposure to the current. Keep in mind that even a mild shock can kill you if it passes through vital organs or nerve centers. Even if it doesn’t, you could still suffer internal burns and other injuries.
Good Equipment, Good Habits
Good equipment paired with good work habits can protect you more than good equipment alone, but both should be used without fail.
- Be sure all electrical cords, whether extension cords or on power tools, have adequate insulation in excellent condition. Cracks, nicks, frays, or cuts are reason to replace the cord. Be sure to also check the cord’s plug. Don’t use the cord or equipment if any damage is found.
- Don’t bypass or remove machine guards meant to protect you from contact with energized equipment parts.
- Use tools that can be properly grounded.
- Don’t use any electrical equipment if you or the equipment is wet. Even high humidity can cause enough condensation to be a hazard. Be sure you have ground fault circuit interrupters for damp conditions.
- Use lockout/tagout procedures during equipment repairs.
- Rubber gloves, safety mats, and non-conducting tools can also offer some added protection.
Respect the Power
It would be very difficult nowadays to do your job without the help of electricity. But, just as electricity is a valuable on-the-job ally, it can also become a formidable enemy if not treated with respect. No shortcut is worth the risk of suffering electrical shock.
This article is only for general information and recommendations regarding risk prevention and should not be considered legal or other expert advice. The recommendations presented may help reduce or eliminate the risk of loss, but are not guaranteed to do so. Seek qualified counsel with questions specific to your circumstances. ©2016 Federated Mutual Insurance Company.
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