How can I protect myself from electrocution hazards?
A. Maintain safe distance from overhead power lines
Staying away from power lines is the best option. Before work begins:
- Ensure that the equipment/activity (such as cranes and other high reaching equipment) is located within a safe working distance from power lines.
- Use nonconductive ladders and be sure to retract them before moving.
- Ensure that no materials are stored under power lines.
- Use caution tape and signs to cordon off area under power lines.
B. Use Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI)
A GFCI is a ground fault circuit interrupter that is designed to protect people from severe and sometimes fatal electrical shock. A GFCI detects ground faults and interrupts the flow of electric current, and is designed to protect the worker by limiting the duration of an electrical shock. There are three types of GFCI.
B.1 Receptacle GFCI: It is often found on construction work sites, outdoor areas and other locations where damp conditions do or could exist. The receptacle GFCI fits into the standard outlet box and protects users against ground faults when an electrical product is connected to the GFCI protected outlet. These should be tested after installation and once a month.
B.2 Temporary/Portable GFCI: Portable GFCI is an extension cord combined with a GFCI. It adds flexibility in using receptacles that are not protected by GFCls. Extension cords with GFCI protection incorporated should be used when permanent protection is unavailable. These should be tested prior to each and every use.
B.3 Circuit Breaker GFCI: The GFCI circuit breaker controls an entire circuit, and is installed as a replacement for a circuit breaker on the main circuit board. Rather than install multiple GFCI outlets, one GFCI circuit breaker can protect the entire circuit. At sites equipped with circuit breakers, this type of GFCI might be installed in a panel box to give protection to selected circuits. Circuit breaker GFCIs should be tested monthly. Keep in mind that the test will disconnect power to everything on the circuit.
C. Inspect portable tools and extension cords
Workers need to inspect extension cords prior to their use for any cuts or abrasion. Extension cords may have damaged insulation. Sometimes the insulation inside an electrical tool or appliance is damaged. When the insulation is damaged, exposed metal parts may become energized if a live wire inside touches them. Electric hand tools that are old, damaged, or misused may have damaged insulation inside. Flexible cords used with temporary and portable lights shall be designed for hard or extra-hard usage.
D. Use power tools and equipment as designed
Workers need to know that even when the power system is properly grounded, electrical equipment can instantly change from safe to hazardous because of extreme conditions and rough treatment. Workers using power tools and equipment should follow tool safety tips to avoid misusing equipment.
- Never carry a tool by the cord
- Never yank the cord to disconnect it
- Keep cords away from heat, oil, and sharp edges
- Disconnect when not in use and when changing accessories such as blades and bits
- Avoid accidental starting. Do not hold fingers on the switch button while carrying a plugged-in tool
- Use gloves and appropriate footwear
- Store in dry a place when not using
- Don’t use in wet/damp environments
- Keep working areas well lit
- Ensure that cords do not cause a tripping hazard
- Remove damaged tools from use
E. Follow lockout/tagout procedure
Lockout/tagout is an essential safety procedure that protects workers from injury while working on or near electrical circuits and equipment. It also prevents the unexpected release of hazardous gases, fluids, or solid matter in areas where workers are present.
To protect against being electrocuted, workers need to follow lockout/tagout procedures. When performing lockout/tagout on circuits and equipment, the following checklist can be used:
- Identify all sources of electrical energy for the equipment or circuits in question
- Disable backup energy sources such as generators and batteries
- Identify all shut-offs for each energy source
- Notify all personnel that equipment and circuitry must be shut off, locked out, and tagged out (Simply turning a switch off is not enough)
- Shut off energy sources and lock switch gear in the OFF position. Each worker should apply his/her individual lock and keys kept with the worker
- Test equipment and circuitry to ensure they are de-energized. This must be done by a qualified person
- Deplete stored energy (for example, in capacitors) by bleeding, blocking, grounding, etc.
- Apply a lock or tag to alert other workers that an energy source or piece of equipment has been locked or tagged out
- Make sure all workers are safe and accounted for before equipment and circuits are unlocked and turned back on. Only a qualified person may determine when it is safe to re-energize circuits.
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