The Importance of Electrical Safety in the Workplace

The Importance of Electrical Safety in the Workplace - Lee Company

Safety should always come first in the workplace, especially concerning electricity. It only takes one misstep or poorly maintained system for a dangerous – and even deadly – accident. Unfortunately, many business owners don’t know how best to protect their employees, customers, and facilities from harm. That’s why we’ve compiled this comprehensive guide on electrical safety in the workplace every business owner and facility manager should implement now.

What are Electrical Hazards?

Navigating an environment that’s filled with electricity can be tricky business. Electrical hazards can exist anywhere from bustling universities to high-security airports, from sprawling industrial plants to stadiums filled with thousands of cheering fans.

Your employees may be tasked with using and managing complex machinery, equipment, and systems. And as the owner or supervisor, you can’t be everywhere. That’s why it pays to understand electrical hazards and how to prevent them.

Electrical hazards refer to any situation where an employee is exposed to:

  • Electrical shock
  • Arc flash (This is when an electrical current jumps from its designated path and arcs through the air, connecting one conductor to another or even directly to ground)
  • Fire
  • Explosion

These terrifying situations can occur if people don’t follow proper safety protocols or electrical systems are not properly designed, installed, and maintained.

8 Causes of Electrical Accidents in the Workplace

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), a non-profit organization that promotes electrical safety in the workplace, reveals that 69% of electrical workplace fatalities were in occupations unrelated to electrical work — that means the majority of people injured or killed in workplace electrical accidents were not electricians.

So it’s safe to assume unsafe practices and negligence likely cause many workplace electrical accidents. And the data reflects this. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) notes that most workplace fatalities occurred as a result of contact with electrical energy in an unintended way:

  • Working with unsafe equipment (sometimes due to unsafe installation)
  • Unsafe working environment
  • Unsafe labor practices

And a deep dive into these electrical workplace accidents reveals eight specific causes:

  1. Contact with overhead power lines
  2. Defective tools or equipment
  3. Poorly-installed wiring
  4. Overloaded Circuits
  5. Exposed electrical components
  6. Inadequate grounding
  7. Compromised insulation on wiring and cords
  8. Wet conditions

Unfortunately, many workplace accidents are probably preventable with the right knowledge and proper safety protocols.

What Occupations Are Most at Risk for Electrical Accidents?

Any workplace that uses or deals with electrical energy is susceptible to electrical accidents (basically any business). Still, some occupations are much more likely to be affected than others.

Data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) shows that a shocking 44% of fatal injury victims were employed in construction and extraction occupations, with an additional 20% working in related industries for installation, maintenance, or repair.

According to the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, the top 5 workplace electrical accident-prone occupations in order are:

  1. Construction and extraction
  2. Installation, maintenance, and repair
  3. Building, grounds cleaning, and maintenance
  4. Transportation and material moving
  5. Farming, fishing, and forestry

In industries like construction, it’s easy to forget about the dangers of electric energy because it’s so integrated into the daily routine. As a result, employees oftentimes take electrical risks for granted (leaving them more vulnerable to accidents).

But based on the list above, many victims affected by electrical-related accidents were not employed in a field that would have necessitated specialized knowledge in electrical safety. So it’s possible that they might not have been equipped with adequate instruction on handling such situations safely.

That’s why, as the business owner or facility manager, it’s crucial to have electrical safety training and protocols for all your employees. This way, everyone on the job site knows how to correctly identify workplace electrical hazards and take the necessary precautions to mitigate risk.

Understanding Electrical Safety Regulations and Compliance

Electrical safety regulations are in place to protect workers — and for good reason. Every year, electric hazards tragically take the lives of more than 300 American workers and leave an additional 4,000 injured, according to data from the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH).

It’s important to understand electrical safety regulations and comply so your company doesn’t become one of these statistics…

OSHA has specific electrical workplace safety regulations based on the National Electric Code (NEC). The NEC sets standards and designates qualified professionals for the safe installation and maintenance of wiring and equipment in any workplace in the United States.

OSHA’s workplace electrical safety standards require employers to:

  • Train employees who work with or near electrical equipment or circuits, covering safe work practices, hazard recognition, and emergency procedures.
  • Ensure electrical equipment is properly maintained, inspected, and tested to prevent electrical hazards.
  • Implement safe work practices, such as de-energizing equipment before servicing, using appropriate personal protective equipment, and grounding electrical circuits.
  • Identify and mark electrical hazards (such as exposed live parts) and ensure that employees are aware of these hazards.
  • Provide adequate lighting and ventilation to ensure a safe work environment.
  • Ensure that only qualified employees work on or near electrical equipment.

Facility management and maintenance teams also majorly affect workplace electrical safety compliance. Whether this is done in-house or by a commercial electrical contractor, like Lee Company, the team should regularly:

  • Inspect all workplace electric systems for any damage or defects.
  • Be up-to-date on the most recent NEC requirements.
  • Ensure workplace electrical systems are installed, maintained, and repaired or replaced according to those standards.

By understanding your responsibilities as an employer and how to adhere to workplace electrical safety regulations, you can avoid workplace electrical accidents and keep your team protected!

Consequences of Workplace Injuries

If revenue and productivity are the lifeblood of a business, then injuries and fatalities are life-threatening diseases that can bring everything to a standstill. With thousands of injuries and hundreds of deaths each year, it’s important to understand the negative effects of workplace accidents on an organization.

There are several direct and indirect costs associated with workplace electrical injuries and fatalities, the most obvious being:

  • Workers’ compensation claims
  • Legal costs
  • Medical expenses

The direct cost of workplace injuries requiring medical consultation is estimated to exceed $40,000! And the cost of a death exceeds $1.3 million in direct costs alone, according to the National Safety Council.

Indirect costs shouldn’t be overlooked either. Each workplace accident can lead to:

  • Lost productivity
  • Decreased workplace efficiency
  • Reputation damage
  • Higher insurance premiums
  • Employee turnover
  • Bad morale
  • Lower customer satisfaction
  • Recruiting and hiring costs associated with replacing injured or deceased workers

These costs add up very quickly and lead to decreased profits. Building a culture of safety and responsibility can help reduce workplace electrical accidents and minimize their devastating consequences.

Plus, it does more than protect employees and assets — implementing a safety protocol plan is an investment in trust and loyalty. And in a time when good workers are hard to come by, workplace safety can be a major factor in employee retention.

Implementing Electrical Safety Protocols with Employees

Providing a safe work environment should be every organization’s top priority. Nobody wants to get hurt on the job, and no business wants to risk workplace accidents’ potential legal and financial consequences.

So the first step is to bring awareness to your safety protocols and ensure everyone understands and follows them. That means being proactive rather than waiting for an accident to occur. 

From new hires to senior management, every employee should receive workplace electrical safety training and understand their roles in preventing accidents.

Here are a few best practices for employers to implement:

Train All Employees on Workplace Electrical Safety Protocol

Workplace electrical safety should be a core part of onboarding from day one. Employees should receive training that includes information about the following:

  • The dangers of electrical hazards
  • How to identify them
  • What steps to take when they are encountered
  • How to report workplace electrical hazards

Enforce the Rules

Show that you’re committed to workplace safety by putting electrical safety protocols in writing and making it clear that employees are expected to follow them. Make sure that any changes to that protocol are communicated quickly and clearly.

Provide the Right Equipment and Tools

Especially for employees that work directly with electrical equipment, ensure they have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and the right tools.

For some roles, this might include providing the following:

  • Electrically insulated rubber gloves
  • Face shields and safety glasses
  • Non-conductive shoes

Properly Maintain Equipment

By regularly inspecting and maintaining any workplace electrical equipment, you can prevent potential accidents before they occur. Depending on your unique industry, much of your equipment may need to be tested and certified regularly, per workplace safety regulations. So this could be another layer to processes you already have in place.

Offer Ongoing Safety Training

No workplace electrical safety protocol is set in stone. As new technologies and standards are developed, staying up-to-date on changes affecting your workplace’s electrical safety is important.

Make workplace electrical safety training an ongoing process, not just a one-time event. Offer refresher courses or classes focusing on specific equipment prone to electrical hazards and how to address them safely.

Invest in Electrical Safety Audits

If electrical safety is a new priority for your business, or if it’s been a while since your facility had a professional inspection, you might consider investing in a comprehensive electrical safety audit. This involves assessing your current workplace system, equipment, and processes to make sure they meet the latest codes and industry standards.

This is especially important for workplace environments that use electrical equipment, like healthcare and manufacturing facilities. An electrical safety audit will help you identify potential risks before they become a problem. 

Then a professional electrician can repair or replace any faulty electrical, and ongoing maintenance can help keep it that way.

Facilities Maintenance & Management: A Crucial Investment for Electrical Safety at Work

Having the right electrical safety protocols is a great first step, but it’s only part of the equation. As mentioned above, regular facility maintenance and management are equally important to workplace safety. And this requires an investment in professional electrical services because of the complexities and dangers associated with electrical work (not to mention licensing requirements in many states).

First, you must ensure all your current electrical is installed and operating correctly. This includes everything from surge protectors and circuit breakers to wiring systems and electrical components.

You’ll also need to make sure that your workplace:

  • Uses the right electrical cables, wires, and insulation for all equipment
  • Is regularly inspected for any signs of damage or wear
  • Has a process for identifying and addressing damaged or worn electrical components
  • Has an emergency plan in place when workplace safety is compromised

It’s also a smart idea to invest in equipment like fire extinguishers, emergency exit signs, electrical safety posters, and other features that can help mitigate workplace accidents.

Don’t let time, resources, or a lack of skills hold you back from providing a safe and compliant workplace. At Lee Company, we understand the importance of this task and have designed our facility management contracts to help!

Our highly experienced team is dedicated to keeping your entire infrastructure (including electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling, and more) in optimal condition so that your employees’ and customers’ well-being never takes a backseat to productivity!

Take control of workplace safety today by contacting Lee Company. Protecting those who matter most is just a consultation away!

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