You may wonder why electrical accidents continue to plague the construction and maintenance workplace. After all, taking safety precautions and using the proper tools the right way seem obvious. So, why do these accidents occur? There are many reasons.

Sometimes, people don’t think before they act. For example, an experienced maintenance electrician on his way home from work learns of a power failure. He immediately returns to the plant to help. He takes his 600V meter and places its leads across two phases of an energized 15kV load break switch. He’s severely burned in the resulting explosion.

Other times, haste takes precedence over safety. Another example: An electrician must install a bolt-on circuit breaker in a panelboard. To save time, she does it with the panelboard energized. With some semblance of safety in mind, she wraps insulating tape on the extension shaft of her wrench, so it won’t short out to the panelboard bus bars. Unfortunately, she contacts live parts with the uninsulated wrench drive handle. She’s injured by flying molten metal and hot gases.

Still other times, lack of knowledge and training creates unawareness. The end result is a worker performing a task with little or no idea of its potential dangers. After the accident and resulting injury, he or she claims unawareness of the hazards involved and is amazed at the violent nature of the effects of an electrical fault—the explosions, fireballs, bright flashes, acrid smoke, and flying molten metal.

There are two relatively simple ways to keep from being an electrical accident statistic.

  • If you don’t have to work hot, don’t.
  • If you do have to work hot, make sure you’re wearing the necessary personal protective equipment and using safety insulated devices.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand electrical safety rules; it just takes a conscientious, attentive, and knowledgeable worker to apply them.