How to Work Safely with Electricity

Safety is Key When Working with Electricity

As reported by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration over 350 electrical-related fatalities occur each year. What electrical hazards do workers face? Knowing how to work safely with electricity can prevent injuries and fatalities.  Electrical and Arc Flash Safety is a link to a website that provides excellent electrical safety articles.

Electrical injuries are often caused by: contact with power lines, lack of ground-fault protection, path to ground missing or discontinuous, equipment not used in manner prescribed, and improper use of extension and flexible cords.
Shocks from faulty equipment can cause severe and permanent injury and can lead to indirect injuries, due to falls from ladders, scaffolds, or other work platforms.
When working with or near electricity or electrical equipment, do not wear lose fitting clothes or jewelry. Work in an uncluttered area, and work with caution. The electrical current in a home can cause serious injury and death. Adhering to basic safety strategy when working alone or with a team will help reduce the risk of injury or worse.

Know How to Work Safely with Electricity

1. Test circuits to determine if the circuit is live before coming in contact with them. Do not assume a circuit is inactive verify that it is inactive.
2. Unplug the power supply before commencing work.
3. Wear proper work shoes, work gloves and clothing that does not conduct electricity.
4. Turn off overheating electrical equipment immediately and repair or replace. If you feel a tingling from an electrical device it is more than likely defective, repair or replace it.
5. Do no expose electrical equipment to any liquids. If a spill happens, turn off the power source and disconnect the equipment.
6. Do not leave electrical contacts uncovered / exposed, or electrical transmitters unattended
7. When conceivable, work with just a single hand, with your other hand next to you and far from all conductive material. This safeguard will decrease the probability of an electrical current going through the chest hole.
8. Use just tools and hardware such as ladders with non-conductive handles.
9. Always check where overhead power lines and underground cables are situated. These service lines are live and turning them off at the main power switch is not possible.

Electrical Shock Hazards

The major hazards related with electricity are electrical shock, fire and arc flash. Electrical shock occurs when the body becomes part of the electric circuit, either when an individual is exposed to both wires of an electrical circuit, one wire of an energized circuit and being grounded, or a metallic part that has become energized by contact with an electrical conductor.

The seriousness and result of an electrical shock depends on a number of things. The dependencies are the path it takes the body, the amps of current, the length of time of the contact and whether the skin is wet or dry. Water is a great conductor of electricity, current to flows more easily in wet conditions and through wet skin.

Shock may feel like a slight tingle and up to severe burns or even cardiac arrest. The chart below shows the general relationship between the degree of injury and amount of current. Most electrical circuits can provide, under normal conditions, up to 20,000 mill amperes of current flow.



1 Milliampere

Perception level

5 Milliamperes

Small shock felt; not painful but disturbing

6-30 Milliamperes

Painful shock

50-150 Milliamperes

Intense pain, respiratory arrest, severe muscular contraction

1000-4,300 Milliamperes

Ventricular fibrillation

10,000+ Milliamperes

Cardiac arrest, severe burns and likely death

Arc Flash

A dangerous arc flash can occur in any electrical apparatus in spite of voltage, when the energy is high enough to sustain an arc. In an arc flash event an huge amount of concentrated radiant energy explodes outward from electrical equipment. The explosion creates force gas that can severely burn a worker’s body and melt metal.

Where Arc Flash Can Occur

Panel boards and switchboards

Motor control centers

Metal clad switch gear


Motor starters and drive cabinets

Fused disconnect

Electrical Fire

These are the leading causes of home electrical fires as reported by the U.S. Fire Administration.

Electrical Fire Causes

Faulty outlets, appliances

Light fixtures

Extension cords

Space heater