OSHA’s Fatal Four: Electrocution

June is National Safety Month, a campaign sponsored by the National Safety Council (NSC) to help raise awareness of occupational safety. Each week in June, Dawood examines the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) Focus Four Hazards: Falls, Caught-In or Between, Struck-By, and Electrocution.

This week, we discuss electrocution, or death by electric shock, which is responsible for roughly 9% of workplace fatalities. Construction employees face many electrical hazards such as contact with overhead powerlines, unsafe electrical cords, exposed electrical parts, and even lightning strikes.

Know the Risks

According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), 126 workers were electrocuted and an additional 2,220 workers missed work due to electrical injuries in 2020.

EHS Daily Advisor notes that the three major sources of electrocution involve:

  • Contacting energized sources (energized circuit parts and conductors, exposed wires, and defective tools/equipment);
  • Improperly using electrical cords and flexible cords;
  • Contacting overhead powerlines (confused for telephone lines).

Keys to Keep You Safe

  • Don’t perform work on energized equipment unless qualified to do so.
  • Follow proper lockout/tagout procedures to control hazardous energy release.
  • Maintain a safe distance from overhead powerlines, use goal posts to pass under the overhead lines safely, and use non-conductive taglines to control the load if carried underneath overhead lines.
  • Inspect your tools before each use and if unsafe to use tag equipment out-of-service and use another tool.
  • Ensure electrical components are fully intact without tears or rips in the cord insulation and unaltered electrical mating structures.
  • Use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) for protection when using corded power tools. GFCIs detect ground faults in the circuit and mechanically shut off power when the internal transformer detects a 4-5 milliamp loss.