Electrical Safety During the Holidays: Part 2


In Part 1 of this blog series, we spoke about what electrical safety is and the proper work practices. The next two guidelines when working with or around electricity are understanding the specialized equipment and implementing lockout/tagout procedures.

Specialized Equipment: Definitions & How to Use 

A variety of safety equipment is designed specifically for use around energized electrical circuits.

Ground Cables: Placing a ground cable on a piece of equipment and connecting it to a ground (ex: water pipe or indicated ground) creates a path of least resistance through the ground cable and reduces the chance that your body will become a path. Some equipment incorporates grounding connections as part of the installation.

Insulating Material: When you are required to work with or in close proximity to energized electrical equipment, consider using these insulating materials: 
  • Special rubber gloves and other materials designed to withstand high voltages. 
  • Protective sleeves and shoulder protection. 
  • Place rubber matting around or over potentially energized components and on the floor where you will be standing.
Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI): Electric tools and equipment (ex: drills, grinders, or saws) should be connected to a GFCI. These devices are designed to protect you if a faulty circuit develops in the equipment. Always inspect your tools’ power cords, extension cords, and drop lights for damage, exposed wires, and altered connections.

Low-Voltage Equipment: When working in wet or hazardous locations, use low-voltage (12 V or 24 V) equipment if possible. Even if a problem develops when using low-voltage equipment, severe injury is unlikely. 

Lockout/Tagout Procedure

The best way to avoid being injured in an electrical accident is to deenergize the circuit. If the circuit is deenergized, there is no voltage source, and the possibility of shock or electrocution is eliminated. To further understand this OSHA procedure, here are 3 steps to follow:

1. Deenergize the Circuit: The circuit should be deenergized at its source. This point will usually be a circuit breaker, control switch, fuse panel, or other switching device. Circuit breakers should be placed in the open position, but control switches should be placed in the open or off position. If the control switches have fuses, the fuses should be removed after the switch has been opened.

2. Establish the Lockout/Tagout: Once the circuit has been deenergized, the device must be secured in the open position to ensure that no one inadvertently closes the device. In addition, a red “DANGER” tag should be attached to the device. If you are the person being protected by the lockout/tagout, you should attach your own padlock to the control device, and you should be the only person with the key.

3. Verify the Circuit: Once a circuit has been deenergized, tagged, and locked to your satisfaction, the circuit should be checked at the working point with voltmeters or test meters to verify that it is in fact deenergized. As the establisher of the lockout/tagout, you must be satisfied that the circuit has been deenergized and is properly secured to prevent it from becoming energized.

This article is Part 2 of 3 and is adapted from BOMI International's Electrical Systems and Illumination course, part of the SMA® and SMT® designation programs. More information regarding this course is available by calling 1.800.235.2664. Visit BOMI International’s website, www.bomi.org.

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