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General Electrical Safety Procedures

The electrical current in an ordinary home or business has enough power to cause death by electrocution. People don't realize that even the changing of a light bulb without first unplugging the lamp or lighting fixture could be hazardous because the "hot" or live part could injure a person if they contact it.

Any electrical system has the potential to injure. Electricity can be either "static" or "dynamic":

  • Dynamic electricity is the uniform motion of electrons through a conductor (electric current). Any discussion of electrical safety will be an examination of dynamic electricity.
  • Static electricity is accumulation of charge on surfaces as a result of contact and friction with another surface. Electrons accumulate on one surface, creating a deficiency of electrons on the other surface.
  • Electric current cannot exist without an unbroken path to and from the conductor.

General electrical safety is very important for home owners. It is recommended that all homeowners have their electrical systems inspectded periodically in order to learn of any underlying conditions that may be harmful to their families.

Electrical fires that sometimes occur in the home create personal injuries like burns and loss of personal property and most of these electrical fires are caused by faulty electrical wiring. The two typical types of electrical accidents connected with faulty electrical wiring are mostly caused by: (1) electric shocks and 2) fires. These electric shocks are generally rare but they do occur and a lot of the accidents have been associated with people who have been working on either repairing or modifying electrical equipment. Most accidents seem due to incompetence by the person that is carrying out the electrical work, without any respect for general electrical safety.

Common sense should be applied. The circuit should be isolated through a general electrical safety lockout tagout procedure before any repairs are carried out on the electrical equipment. Another test of the energized circuit should be conducted using a proper electrical test meter to determine if the circuit has been fully isolated. These basic general electrical safety measures could prevent any individual from receiving an electric shock, which depending on the conditions could be fatal.


Understanding Electricity
Electricity forms a "path" or "loop". When you plug in a device, the electricity takes the easiest path from the plug to the tool, and then back to the power source (plug). This creates or completes an electrical circuit. People are injured when they become part of the electrical circuit. Humans are more conductive than the earth, which means if there is no other easy path, electricity will try to flow through our bodies.

There are four chief kinds of general electrical safety injuries:

  • electrocution (death from electrical shock);
  • electric shock;
  • burns; (arc flash injuries)
  • falls after electric shock


These injuries can happen in various ways:

  • Direct contact with the electrical energy. The electricity interferes with the normal electrical signals between the brain and muscles, causing the heart to stop beating properly or breathing to stop, or causing the muscles to go into spasm.
  • When the electric current passes through the air to a person who is grounded — the body provides an alternative route to the ground for the electric current.
  • Arc flashes create intense heat causing severe burns, flash with an intense light, which can cause blindness and ignite materials.
  • Arc blasts cause the same conditions as an arc flash, but are more intense and can also include a strong pressure wave. These pressure waves can damage machinery, throw a person, collapse a lung or rupture eardrums.
  • Thermal burns — including flash burns from heat generated by an electric arc — and flame burns from materials that catch on fire from heating or ignition by electrical currents. It should be noted that electrical current can burn internal tissues while creating only small injuries on the surface of the skin.
  • Muscle contractions (startle reaction) can cause a person to fall from a ladder, aerial bucket or scaffold.


General Electrical Safety Practices
It is the employer’s responsibility to inspect on a regular basis all electrical equipment, fittings and installations. This inspection should always be carried out by a person possessing sufficient technical knowledge, experience and skills.

A general electrical safety risk assessment should be undertaken by the employer where there is the potential for harm to be caused and measures to control risks should be implemented.

An inventory of all electrical equipment, fittings and installations on the site should be drawn up. This should record the serial number or another form of identification.

A general electrical safety inspection should take place at least at the following intervals (and more frequently in areas of high usage or subject to abuse):

  • FIXED INSTALLATIONS: every five years at least;
  • TEMPORARY INSTALLATIONS: every three months;
  • PORTABLE ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT: visually each term with a thorough general electrical safety inspection and test each year.

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