Safety training in today's electrical industry is not only a requirement, it's a must. Knowledge is the key to safety. We all know someone who was injured or died as a result of an electrical accident. Most of these accidents could have been prevented by having knowledge of OSHA's "Safety Related Work Practices."

I never received this type of training during my apprenticeship or during my term as a journeymen electrician. Every time I lecture to a class I think back to coworkers who could have prevented an accident. One of my friends was severely burned by not knowing the required approach distance for 12,470 V (1 ft, 6 inches). He reached into a switch without wearing the proper protective equipment.

During the classes I show numerous electrical accidents that have been captured on film such as.a young man dies trying to hold up electrical lines to clear a mobile home being delivered. A homeowner dies in a flooded basement after touching an energized water pipe. A student is electrocuted by a frayed extension cord while washing his car.

Electricians have a responsibility for their own safety as well as the safety of others. For example, if a machine is not properly grounded, it becomes a shock hazard to anyone in the area. Everyone working with electric equipment must be trained to ensure a safe work place for all employees. The amount of safety training should be determined by the risk to the employee and the training should be ongoing to provide renewed safety awareness and to inform new employees of hazards.

Electrical hazards include shock, explosions, burns, and numerous other hazards-some of which may be caused by a chain reaction, such as falling off ladders. OSHA statistics show that burns are the most common type of electrical injury. The basic rule is to de-energize the equipment. If the hazard introduced by disrupting the power is greater than the risk to work on it energized, OSHA allows the work to be done hot. For example, a qualified person may be allowed to work on the lights in an area without disrupting the power. The first question is "Am I qualified to work on this energized equipment?" To say "Yes," you must know how to determine the nominal voltage, which parts of the equipment are energized, and the approach distance required. You must also know the hazards involved and how to manage them. For example, if you need to tighten a lug on phase A, you may need to place a barrier of insulating material around phase "A" to prevent accidental contact to ground or phase "B."

OSHA also allows work to be done hot if it is not feasible to turn the power off; for example, a manufacturing process that must be completed to avoid machine damage. When work must be done on energized equipment, you should wear a class "B" hard hat, a face shield, long sleeve fire-rated clothing, rubber gloves, and rubber soled shoes. Switchboard matting on the floor would be extra-added protection. All motors, tools, and safety equipment must be rated for the system voltage on which you are working. Knowing these requirements and following all safety procedures is part of managing the hazards associated with the use of electricity.

I've touched on just a few of the safety-related work practice requirements here. The "Code of Federal Regulations, Title 29," must be referred to for all requirements. However, all contingencies cannot be covered. You must have knowledge of the hazards and apply good judgment to work safely.