Any safety precautions taken against electricity are referred to as electrical safety. Electricity is unquestionably one of contemporary life’s most fundamental requirements, yet electrical risks are extremely harmful.
Electricity is a form of energy. The movement, or flow, of electricity is called current. Current is measured in units called amperes, or amps, for short.
The force that makes electricity flow is called voltage. Voltage is measured in units called volts.
All materials offer some resistance to current flow. Generally, current tends to flow along the path of least resistance back to its source. A material that current can flow through easily is called a conductor. Some substances, such as copper, steel, and aluminum are excellent conductors. In other words, current flows easily through them.
The human body is also a conductor. If the human body comes in contact with a current-carrying conductor and is also in contact with the ground, the body may become the path of least resistance. When the body conducts current and the amount of current is sufficiently high, a person suffers electrical shock.
Electrical shock is the body’s physical reaction to a significant amount of current flow through it.
The prime cause of death from electrical shock is the heart going into a state of convulsion called ventricular fibrillation. When a sufficiently large amount of current flows through the heart, the heart begins twitching in an irregular manner. This twitching is ventricular fibrillation. Ventricular fibrillation lasts for only a short time. Without the normal heartbeat rhythm, the individual dies. Not all electrical accidents result in death. There are different types of electrical injuries, including electric shock, falls caused by shock, burns, explosions, and fires.
A person does not necessarily have to come in direct contact with a conductor to be injured. Electricity can pass through the air for short distances. When it does, the arc and flash that result generate a great deal of heat that can cause burns, fires, or even explosions.
OSHA regulations and company policies and procedures are very specific about keeping the workplace safe from electrical hazards. In addition, there are many things that workers can do to reduce the chance of an electrical accident. The following are some basic guidelines:
- Make sure that extension cords are rated by Underwriters Laboratory (a firm that tests and rates electrical equipment).
- Make sure that panels, switches, plugs, and outlets are grounded.
- Inspect all electric power tools before each use.
- Make sure that their cords are the three-wire type and that they are properly connected.
- Make sure that all double-insulated tools that are designed to have a two-wire cord are approved by Underwriters Laboratory.
- Follow all safe work practices around electrical equipment, including maintaining a proper safe working distance from exposed electrical equipment.
Minimum safe working distances from exposed conductors are specified in OSHA regulations and company policies, and they vary with the amount of voltage in the conductor.
To remain safe around electrical hazards, workers need to know the safe working distance that applies to each work site situation. Workers must also make sure that they never get any parts of their body or any tools they are using closer to exposed conductors than the safe working distance. Information on safe working distances can be obtained from supervisors, company safety policies, and regulatory documents.
Anyone who is present when someone receives an electrical shock should be aware that immediate action can be lifesaving. If someone is shocked, company procedures should be followed to respond to the situation. These procedures include reporting the situation and disconnecting the circuit. If the circuit cannot be readily disconnected, a non-conducting material should be used to separate the victim from the circuit.
Personnel who are participating in a rescue effort should be careful not to touch the victim or the electrical source unless they are safely insulated. Careless rescue personnel can become additional victims.
Once the victim is separated from the circuit, first aid should be provided as required, and an ambulance should be called.
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