man lying on ground after electrocution

How to Avoid Serious Injury, Death from Electrocution

Practice these tips to keep employees safe from electrocution or arc flash

By Ashley Beebe, Contributing Writer  

When working with electrical distribution systems and components, frontline maintenance technicians and engineers often face the potential for serious injury or death from electrocution or arc flashes, but knowledge of safety tips, procedures, codes and regulations can help technicians and engineers lessen the risk and potential for serious injury or death.  

Electrocution is defined as the injury or killing of someone by electric shock. An arc flash is a phenomenon in which a flashover of electric current leaves its intended path and travels through the air from one conductor to another or the ground. Serious injury, or even death, can occur. 

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employees must not work near an electric current, any equipment, or a part they may come in contact with while on the job, unless it has been de-energized. If an electric current has not been de-energized, employees must be protected by isolation, insulation, warning signs or other methods. The protection must conform to national codes. 

Effective isolation of live parts, includes locked rooms, fence or screen enclosures, walls or partitions, or elevated locations. 

“Effective barriers or other means must be provided to ensure that areas containing electrical circuits or equipment will not be used as passageways when energized lines or equipment are exposed,” according to OSHA. 

OSHA states that live parts of wiring or equipment must be effectively guarded to protect employees or objects from harmful contact. Entrances to these areas must be locked when not under constant observation, and “Danger – High Voltage” warning signs must also be posted at the entrances. 

There is also personal protective equipment (PPE) for electric hazards, which must be used and maintained in accordance with PPE policies, according to OSHA. All PPE must be specified to ensure the safety of the employee performing work activities. 

Related Content: Maintenance Worker Electrocuted, Killed

Technicians and engineers should always know what they are working with, evaluate the hazards, and know what controls to implement to do the job safely, says Katie Segura, an ESFM safety manager. 

“The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has standards that protect people from arc flash injuries,” Segura says. “NFPA 70E is the standard that covers safety-related work practices, maintenance requirements and governs employees who work on or near exposed energized electrical equipment.” 

OSHA also states that if work is performed on exposed, energized parts, it must be performed by a qualified worker as defined by the NFPA 70E. 

Before an employee conducts any work activities with energized electrical work, they must confirm that all alternate energy isolation possibilities and/or scheduling options for equipment de-energization have been considered; develop a plan that outlines the scope, safety hazards, control measures and PPE requirements; perform a hazard analysis in accordance with NFPA 70E for each work site; determine the arc flash protection boundary in accordance with NFPA 70E and only qualified employees with proper PPE are allowed to work or stand within the flash protection boundary; and lastly, employees must perform a pre-work visual inspection of all utilized PPE, according to NFPA 70E. 

Ashley Beebe, is a freelance writer with Advantage Informatics.   



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  posted on 2/27/2024   Article Use Policy

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