Electrical hazards cause more than 300 electrocutions and 4,000 injuries in the workplace each year, disrupting lives and impacting the productivity of companies. While electrical hazards are not the leading cause of on-the-job injuries, accidents and fatalities, they are disproportionately fatal and costly.

Over the past 10 years, more than 46,000 workers have been injured from on-the-job electrical hazards. These injuries are not isolated to any one industry or field of work and most could be easily avoided. Awareness of electrical hazards is critical to avoiding and preventing accidents.

Since May is National Electrical Safety Month, it is an ideal time for employers and employees to promote the importance of electrical safety by increasing awareness of these vital safety issues. Whether you are an employer, safety director, electrician or maintenance professional – safety is the most important issue for anyone who works on or around energized equipment.

As part of the effort to increase awareness, ESFI has created the Never Assume Safety Series to address the most critical workplace electrical safety issues.

The Never Assume Safety Series represents a significant step forward for ESFI in addressing electrical safety in commercial and industrial settings and is a valuable resource.

Every 30 minutes during the work day, a worker is hurt so severely from electricity that time off from the job for recovery is necessary. Recovery from electrical shocks and burns is slow and painful. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recognizes electricity as a long-time serious workplace hazard. According to OSHA, its electrical standards are designed to protect employees exposed to dangers such as electric shock, electrocution, fires and explosions.

Each day, nearly 3 million professionals participate in work activities where lockout/tagout procedures should be used. Unfortunately, too many workers still put themselves unnecessarily at risk by working energized or neglecting to follow their company’s lockout/tagout procedures. Failure to comply with lockout/tagout standard is listed as one of the top OSHA violations year after year.

In fact, two other electrical-related violations are on the top 10 OSHA violations between 2002 an 2009: electrical-wiring methods and general electrical requirements.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), there are four main types of injuries that can occur as a result of electricity-related accidents: electrocution (which refers to the stopping of a heart due to an electric shock), electric shock, burns and falls caused as a result of contact with electrical energy.

Whether employed at a large manufacturing plant or on a small installation, there are certain guidelines that should serve as a helpful reminder of basic electrical safety practices.

It is always important to ensure an employee is properly trained and qualified for a job. Not understanding the circumstances about the job can lead to accidents and injuries. Even properly qualified workers are susceptible to accidents. That’s why it’s important to make safety an integral part of the planning process for every job.

Other important safety tips to help avoid injuries include:

  • Identify the electric shock and arc flash hazards, as well as others that may be present.
  • Use the right tools for the job.
  • Isolate equipment from energy sources.
  • Test every circuit and every conductor every time before you touch it.
  • Work on electrical equipment and conductors only when de-energized.
  • Lock out/tag out and ground before working on equipment.
  • Treat de-energized electrical equipment and conductors as energized until lockout/tagout, test, and ground procedures are implemented.
  • Wear protective clothing and equipment and use insulated tools in areas where there are possible electrical hazards.

Adherence to these basic safety tips will help avoid serious – or even life-threatening – injuries while working with electrical equipment.