What is an electrocution hazard?
Electrocution results when a person is exposed to a lethal amount of electrical energy. An electrical hazard can be defined as a serious workplace hazard that exposes workers to Burns, Electrocution, Shock, Arc flash, Fire, Explosion, etc. BE SAFE by recognizing, avoiding and protecting against all of these electrical hazards.
What are the common types of electrocution hazards in construction?
A. Contact with overhead power lines
Overhead and buried power lines are especially hazardous because they carry extremely high voltage. Voltages of overhead lines range from 120 to 750,000 volts. Workers may not realize that cranes are not the only equipment that reaches overhead power lines. Working on a ladder or in a man-basket suspended under or near power lines also poses a risk of electrocution.
B. Contact with energized sources
The major hazards regarding contact with energized sources are electrical shock and burns. Electrical shock occurs when the body becomes part of the electric circuit, either when an individual comes in contact with both wires of an electrical circuit, one wire of an energized circuit and the ground, or a metallic part that has become energized by contact with an electrical conductor.
The severity and effects of an electrical shock depend on a number of factors, such as the pathway through the body, the amount of current, the length of time of the exposure, and whether the skin is wet or dry. Water is a great conductor of electricity, allowing current to flow more easily in wet conditions and through wet skin.
Electrical burns can be arc burns, thermal contact burns, or a combination of burns. Electrical burns are among the most serious burns and require immediate medical attention. They occur when an electric current flows through tissue or bone, generating heat that causes tissue damage. The body cannot dissipate the heat generated by current flowing through the resistance of the tissue therefore, burns occur.
C. Improper use of extension and flexible cords
The normal wear and tear on extension and flexible cords can loosen or expose wires, creating a hazardous condition. Cords that are not 3-wire type, not designed for hard-usage, or that have been modified, increase the risk of electric shock. With the wide use of power tools on construction sites, flexible extension cords are often necessary. Because they are exposed, flexible, and unsecured, they are more susceptible to damage than fixed wiring. Hazards are created when cords, cord connectors, receptacles, and cord- and plug- connected equipment are improperly used and maintained.
To reduce hazards, flexible cords must connect to devices and to fittings in ways that prevent tension at joints and terminal screws. A flexible cord may be damaged by door or window edges, staples and fastenings, abrasion from adjacent materials, or simply by aging. If the electrical conductors become exposed, there is a danger of shocks, burns, or fire.
When a cord connector is wet, electric current can leak to the equipment grounding conductor, and to anyone who picks up that connector if they provide a path to ground. Such leakage can occur not just on the face of the connector, but at any wetted portion.
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