Hellman & Associates

Electrical Hazard Prevention

OSHA Standard: 1926.400 Electrical

  • Electricity has long been recognized as a serious workplace hazard, exposing employees to electric shock, electrocution, burns, fires, and explosions. In 1999, for example, 278 workers died from electrocutions at work, accounting for almost 5 percent of all on-the-job fatalities that year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. What makes these statistics more tragic is that most of these fatalities could have been easily avoided.
  • Operating an electric switch is like turning on a water faucet.
  • Behind the faucet (or switch) there is a source of water (or electricity) with a way to transport it, and pressure to make it flow. The faucet’s water source is a reservoir or pumping station. A pump provides enough pressure for the water to travel through the pipes. For electricity the source is the power generating station. A generator provides the pressure (voltage) for the electrical current to travel through electric conductors (wires).
  • Volts – the electrical pressure (measure of electrical force)
  • Amps – the volume or intensity of the electrical flow
  • Watts – the power consumed
  • There are “clues” that electrical hazards exist. For example, if a GFCI keeps tripping while you are using a power tool, there is a problem. Don’t keep resetting the GFCI and continue to work. You must evaluate the “clue” and decide what action should be taken to control the hazard.
  • Electric Shocks
  • The effects of an electric shock on your body can range from a faint tickle (1 milliamp) to cardiac arrest and probable death at 10,000 milliamps. The severity of the shock depends on three factors:
  • How much current flows through your body (measured in amperes)
  • What path the electric current takes.
  • How long you are a part of the circuit.
  • There are a number of other conditions that indicate a hazard:
  • Tripped circuit breakers and blown fuses show that too much current is flowing in a circuit. This could be due to several factors, such as malfunctioning equipment or a short between conductors. You need to determine the cause in order to control the hazard.
  • An electrical tool, appliance, wire, or connection that feels warm may indicate too much current in the circuit or equipment. You need to evaluate the situation and determine your risk.
  • An extension cord that feels warm may indicate too much current for the wire size of the cord. You must decide when action needs to be taken.
  • A cable, fuse box, or junction box that feels warm may indicate too much current in the circuits.
  • A burning odor may indicate overheated insulation.
  • Worn, frayed, or damaged insulation around any wire or other conductor is an electrical hazard because the conductors could be exposed. Contact with an exposed wire could cause a shock. Damaged insulation could cause a short, leading to arcing or a fire. Inspect all insulation for scrapes and breaks. You need to evaluate the seriousness of any damage you find and decide how to deal with the hazard.