The Power of Knowledge
Too often, a worker or person at home will have an accident because they didn't understand why there was danger. For your benefit and for others, acquaint yourself with electricity, power sources, and safety procedures around electrical equipment. At the work site, find out more about safety and electricity. Remember - some power tools only require two-prong plugs as they are "double insulated." At work and at home, explain the dangers and know the right procedures that reduce risks of an incident or injury.
The Invisible Killer
It's a fact - electricity kills. Burns, shock, and electrocution are common hazards that everyone needs to watch out for. Basic safety practices can help you avoid a minor injury or a major catastrophe.
Many tools used in everyday construction work are potentially hazardous. By using your tools correctly and following proper maintenance procedures, you can greatly reduce the risk of electrocution.
As well, watching out for power lines and other power sources is an important part of safety at any work site.
Using a frayed cord is a classic example of a poor safety practice. Don't overlook the obvious - keep your cords and tools well maintained.
Ground Yourself in Safety
Proper procedures must be used. Consult other experienced workers, supervisors, or a safety professional about the proper use and care of hand tools, power tools and power sources.
When using or working near a power source be sure you know which safety procedures you should follow. If in doubt, get help. Follow these general guidelines:
Watch out for faulty equipment
Ground equipment properly
Take the proper precautions when using equipment in damp conditions
Avoid stringing cords across work areas - they may cause trips and falls
Use lockout tags as required
Inspect cords and plugs daily
Use three prong dead front plugs (except with double insulated tools)
Pull the plug - not the cord!
Keep cords away from heat, water and oil
Replace open front plugs - this reduces danger of shock or short circuit
Use extension cords for temporary jobs only - never for permanent wiring
Use undamaged cords and plugs
Wear rubber soled shoes or work boots
It's also important to remember what not to do
Never use light duty power cords for heavy duty work
Never plug too many cords into one outlet
Never tie power cords in knots
Never carry power tools by the cord
Never break the third prong off the plug
More to Know
You're good at your job and your pride yourself in your knowledge and safety practices. Yet, there is always more to know about tools and worksite practices that will reduce risks. Study the legislation and manufacturer's specifications for new and old tools. Learn the proper steps when working with power sources and other work site materials. Your best safety bet is to know the safest procedure.
Share Your Knowledge with Others:
Switch tools OFF before connecting
If you have to make an adjustment to the tool, turn it OFF first and disconnect it
Make sure tools are properly grounded or double insulated
Test tools for proper grounding
Always use the switch to turn ON/OFF - don't just pull the plug from the socket
Use lockout/tag procedures
The best tools to use have "normally OFF" positions - when you let go, it turns off
Operate tools in a safe place - not in an area containing explosive vapours or gases
Do not clean tools with flammable or toxic solvents
Inspect and maintain your tools according to manufacturer's instructions
If you must use a power tool in a damp or wet area, connect it to a ground fault circuit interrupter (CGCI) and raise the cord
At Work, At Home
Twice as many accidents involving electricity occur at home than at work. That's why your knowledge of electrical safety is so important. Share your knowledge and teach your family the "dos and don'ts" involving electricity.
Take an inventory of all your home electrical equipment. Check for:
Too many plugs in one outlet
Plugs missing the third prong [ground] (unless they are on a double insulated tool)
Install GFCI as required
If you find something wrong, replace or fix it. Consult a technician if you're not sure. Teach your children some safety basics. Explain that their safety is important to you.
Make sure your hands are dry before plugging in an appliance
Don't use a radio or other electrical appliance in the bathroom
Never use a knife or fork to remove toast from a toaster
Don't take the back off your TV or similar equipment-leave repairs to a competent technician
For more information, refer to current applicable Occupational Health and Safety Legislation.
Don't Be a Headline
Listed below are a few Electrical Accident stories.
COMPANY PRESIDENT & EMPLOYEE DIE IN CRANE ACCIDENT
A 20-year old truck driver and his 70-year-old male employer (the company president) were electrocuted when the boom of a truck-mounted crane contacted a 7200 volt conductor of an overhead power line. The incident occurred while the driver was unloading concrete blocks at a residential construction site. The driver had backed the truck up the steeply sloped driveway under a power line at the site and was using the crane to unload a cube of concrete blocks. The company president and a masonry contractor watched as the driver operated the crane by a hand-held remote control unit. The driver was having difficulty unloading the blocks because the truck was parked at such a steep angle. While all three men watched the blocks, the tips of the crane boom contacted a conductor of the overhead power line and completed a path to ground through the truck, the remote control unit, and the driver. The company president attempted to render assistance and apparently contacted the truck, completing a path to ground through his body. He died on the scene. The truck driver was airlifted to a nearby burn center where he later died as a result of electrical burns.
29 YEAR OLD MAN ELECTROCUTED
A 29 year old worker was electrocuted when he pushed the crane cable on a 1-yard cement bucket into a 7200 volt power line. The victim was a member of a crew that was constructing the back concrete wall of an underground water-holding tank at a sewage treatment plant. Before work on the tank began, the company safety director made sure that insulated line hoses were placed over sections of the power line near the jobsite and that a safe clearance zone was marked off for arriving cement trucks to use for loading their cement buckets.
After the wall was poured, the driver of the cement truck cleaned the loading chute on his truck with a water hose mounted on the truck. As he began to pull away, the crew supervisor yelled at him - asking if the crew could use his water hose to wash out the cement bucket suspended from the crane. The driver stopped the truck under the power line and the crane operator (not realizing that the truck had been moved) swung the boom to position the bucket behind the truck. The victim grasped the power line. The victim provided a path to ground and was fatally electrocuted.
CONSTRUCTION WORKER ELECTROCUTED
A 37 year old construction labourer was electrocuted while pulling a wire rope attached to a crane cable toward a load. The choker was to be connected to a steel roof joist that was to be lifted 150 feet across the roof of a one-story school and set in place. The cab of the crane was positioned 11-1/2 feet from a 7200 volt power line. After a previous roof joist had been set in place, the crane operator swung the crane boom and cable back toward the victim - who grabbed the choker in his left hand. With his right hand, he held onto a steel rod that had been driven into the ground nearby. At this point, the momentum of the swinging crane apparently caused the crane cable to contact the power line. The electrical current passed across the victim's chest and through the steel rod to ground, causing his fatal electrocution.
SUPERINTENDENT FACES CHARGES AFTER WORKERS ARE ELECTROCUTED
A construction superintendent in Ontario, faces two criminal charges following a worksite fatality which occurred in March 1999. Thomas Coombs, an employee of Hy-Tech Aluminum Ltd., was installing eaves troughs at a townhouse construction site.
He and a co-worker were moving a 12-metre aluminum ladder when it came into contact with the live wire. Coombs was fatally injured while his co-worker was severely burned. John Custodio, the supervisor, has been charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm. As a supervisor, he failed to warn workers of the danger of working close to an energized overhead electrical conductor and failed to ensure waste material was removed to a disposal area as often as was necessary to prevent a hazardous condition (at least once a day).
The Ministry of Labour in Ontario has also charged the contractor and subcontractors involved. Roussel Eaves trough (subcontractor), Manville Aluminum (subcontractor) and Harmony Development (general contractor) have each been charged with failing to ensure that Coombs did not bring the ladder closer than three metres to an energized overhead electrical conductor.