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Spark Change with Electrical Safety Awareness Month 

12 April, 2024

A worker is performing a repair on electrical lines while standing in a cherry picker bucket

A Spotlight on Safety: National Electrical Safety Month  

Every year as we transition through the seasons, we never really stop to think about how much we rely on electricity. From powering our homes to the daily functions of our workplaces, electricity is a big part of our daily lives. As we approach Electrical Safety Month, it acts as our annual reminder of just how important it is to be informed about electrical safety practices.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), contact with, or exposure to, electricity is the leading cause of workplace injuries and deaths in the United States. 

Between 2011 and 2022, the U.S. Bureaus of Labor and Statistics reported the following: 

  1. 1,322 fatalities  
  2. 70% of fatalities occurred in a non-electrical occupation  
  3. 30% of fatalities occurred in an electrical occupation 


Why are There So Many Electrical Injuries in Non-Electrical Occupations?  

Researchers discovered during an investigation conducted into the recovery of electrical burn victims that the use of safety equipment was nearly nonexistent. 

During their findings, the researchers said electrical burns were associated with significant difficulty in returning to work.  

  1.  23% of patients were able to return to their previous employment and perform the same duties, with an average time off work of 17 weeks 
  2.  32% of patients did not return to work at all  
  3. Others did return to work but either took on modified duties with the same employer or worked in a new setting altogether 

Working with electricity directly and indirectly can have serious consequences if not handled properly. The Electrical Safety Foundation (ESFI), a non-profit organization that promotes electrical safety at home and in the workplace, analyzed data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics’ (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupation Injuries and a Survey of Occupational Injuries. They determined that the construction industry accounts for the highest number of electrical fatalities due to contact with overhead power lines and improper removal of lockout/tagout or safety devices. 



Type of Equipment Needed for Overhead and Buried Electrical Power Lines 

Being alert to your surroundings should be a top priority. OSHA suggests workers be on the lookout for potential safety hazards that overhead power lines and buried power lines can create. Always assume power lines are energized. De-energize and ground lines when working in proximity to them.  


Overhead and buried power lines are hazardous due to the high levels of voltage they carry. Burns and falls are the main hazards, but death is also possible. Here are some OSHA safety tips to avoid serious injury:  


  1. Be aware of overhead power lines and buried power line indicators
    Training on what to look out for will come in handy. Overhead power-line safety should be part of an accident prevention program and discussed regularly during crew-leader meetings. 
  2. Stay a minimum of 10 feet away from overhead power lines  
    It is advised to stay 10 feet away from overheard power lines, because close contact with live power lines can increase the risk of electric shock. The human body naturally conducts electricity, so if any part of the body connects with live electricity, an electrical current will flow through the tissue, and can cause an electric shock. This can be dangerous, and result in serious burns, amputations, or death. 
  3. De-energize and ground lines when in proximity to them
    The best-case scenario is to call the power company to shut off the lines in proximity to where the workers may be working. If overhead lines cannot be shut down, find out what the utility company suggests as a plausible solution. 
  4. Use non-conductive wood or fiberglass ladders when working near power lines
    Electric shock can occur while using long-handled tools and ladders, as well as various other situations that include using equipment that can be lifted, such as backhoes and scissor lifts.

OSHA recommends workers use double-insulated tools while working near power lines. Any breach in the tool's plastic casing or housing creates a potential pathway for electricity to travel through and contact with skin. A double-insulate tool adds another layer of protection that reduces the chances of an electric current contacting the skin. 

Given the nature of construction work, the normal use of electrical equipment causes wear and tear that often results in short circuits, exposed wires, etc. If there is no ground-fault protection, it can cause a ground-fault that sends electrical currents through the body. 

Ground faults can also occur and are often the direct result of insulation breakdown. They are inadvertent contact between an energized conductor and ground or a grounded equipment frame, so proper personal protective equipment is essential to prevent nerve damage.  

Fiberglass ladders are recommended while working near power lines due to the ladders having non-conductive side rails and are heavier than regular ladders. Two workers can safely handle them. 


The Rules for Nonelectrical Workers  

OSHA said employers may train workers as qualified employees to enter and perform non-electrical work within generating stations, substations, manholes, vaults, or similar restricted areas. 

For example, employees who open electrical equipment within restricted areas for visual inspection would need to remove enclosures or guards. This puts workers at risk of exposure to electric equipment that is energized at levels greater than 50 volts. All employees with direct access to the type of equipment or installations covered by 1910.269 must be trained as required by 1910.269(a)(2)(i) and (ii) in order to meet the definition of a qualified person contained in 1910.269(x). 
Employees are required to be trained on the following: 

  1. They must know what is and is not safe to touch in the specific areas they will be entering.
  2. They must know the maximum voltage of the area.
  3. They must know the minimum approach distances for the maximum voltage within the area.
  4. They must be trained in the recognition and proper use of protective equipment that will be used to provide protection for them and in the work practices necessary for performing their specific work assignments within the area.

DuraLabel Resources  

Electrical injuries pose serious health risks to workers across all industries, but especially in nonelectrical professions where workers work near machinery or power lines where these incidents are known hazards. The best way to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities is to frequently train workers on what they should be looking out for while out in the field.  

It is important that your facility has the resources to keep its workers safe. DuraLabel’s free Electrical Safety Instant Action Guide helps deploy visual communication, reduces electrical incidents, and provides ways to improve hazard training. Call 1-888-326-9244 and one of our experts will guide you through the process. 

Learn more about Arc Flash PPE. Our free quick reference chart is an essential NFPA resource for workers who maintain energized equipment. It also helps workers understand the four arc flash categories and lists minimum arc rating (AR) and required arc flash clothing for each. 


Electrical Safety Instant Action Guide
Learn how to protect your workforce from electrical hazards.


Read Next:  

Arc Flash Safety Requirements  

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