When trying to improve electrical safety for construction sites there are many challenges that must be overcome. In many cases, employees will need to bring the electricity to where they are working, since there aren’t normal outlets available. This means there may be long extension cords, generators and other electrical equipment throughout the area. Without proper planning and care, this equipment can present a significant danger for the employees, as well as anyone else who is in the area.
Electricity is extremely dangerous because of the fact that it can injure someone in an instant. In addition, it is often impossible to tell the difference between a harmless cord that is unplugged, and one that has a live current. When working on a construction site, employees and management need to work together to help improve the overall electrical safety situation.
Identifying Potential Risks
The first step in improving electrical safety for construction sites is to make sure everyone is able to help identify potential risks. This can start with making sure everyone knows that they should treat all extension cords and other electrical equipment as if it had a live current going through it at all times. This simple step can help to ensure nobody makes an error, resulting in serious injury or death.
There are, of course, many other hazards that people need to be on the lookout for. The following are some common examples of electrical risks that can occur on a construction site:
- Damaged Extension Cords – Due to the fact that there are so many sharp and heavy objects on a construction site, it is not uncommon for a cord to get damaged while in use. As soon as a cord is damaged, it should be taken out of use and either repaired or replaced. Damaged cords can electrocute someone unexpectedly, or cause fires.
- Overused Electrical Equipment – Equipment on construction sites often requires a lot of electricity to function properly. When running this type of equipment on a generator or through an extension cord, it is possible for these things to become overheated. This creates a fire risk, and also can make it possible to get burned while working with these items.
- Improper Grounding – If the wrong types of cords are used on a construction site, it could mean that there won’t be a ground wire, or a sufficient ground wire on the cord. This is common for low gauge residential cords, but is not safe for the demanding construction site.
- Exposure to Water – Water is used for a variety of things on construction sites, including making cement, cooling equipment and much more. If this water gets on or near electrical equipment, it can have deadly results. Taking steps to either keep electrical equipment and water away from each other, or make sure the electrical equipment is water-proof is necessary for all construction sites.
- Chaining Extension Cords – If employees aren’t properly trained on how to use extension cords, they may start linking them together to get extra length. With some types of cords, this can be done safely up to a certain point. With others, however, the added length can create significant hazards.
There are many other potential electrical risks that can exist on a construction site. Going through each area and identifying exactly what types of hazards are present is very important. A site or safety manager should also perform regular inspections, since construction sites are constantly changing as progress is made on the job. Having a good understanding of what risks exists can help to make changes to make the worksite a safer place.
How to Improve Electrical Safety on the Construction Sites
Once you’ve identified all the different electrical risks associated with a construction site, it is necessary to reduce or eliminate the hazards. Every worksite will require different actions to take place in order to improve the overall electrical safety situation. There are, however, some important guidelines that can help all companies minimize the risks associated with electrical equipment.
According to OSHA’s Electrical Construction standards page:
The employer shall instruct each employee in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the regulations applicable to his work environment to control or eliminate any hazards or other exposure to illness or injury.
www.osha.gov - Electrical Safety for Construction
The first, and most important, thing that can be done in order to reduce the risks associated with electricity on construction sites is to provide proper training. Explaining exactly how dangerous electricity can be is a great place to start, and then getting into specific situations that employees may run into on the worksite will help everyone know how they should respond to different scenarios.
Even a simple training session provided to all employees before they go to a construction site can help raise the baseline of knowledge for everyone working in the area. In addition, you can also provide a course and show an electrical awareness DVD (like this one) to help increase the knowledge of the workers. By increasing this knowledge, it is unlikely that anyone will make the poor decisions that often lead to electrical accidents or injuries. Teaching employees how to respond properly if someone is electrocuted is also very important. Electrocution can cause someone’s heart to stop, so performing CPR properly can be life saving.
Ensure Proper Equipment is used
In addition to the training, employers are responsible for ensuring that the right types of equipment are available on the job site. This could mean having a portable generator that can go where it is need, so multiple extension cords aren’t required. Other examples would be having only high quality wiring that is designed for the heavy electrical load that construction equipment uses.
Of course, having the equipment on site isn’t enough to keep everyone safe. Everyone must know how to use the equipment properly, and any limitations of the equipment. In some instances this can be done with a general training course, and other times it is sufficient to have written instructions included with each item.
Personal Protective Equipment is Available
There are many types of safety gear (which can be found here) that can be provided to people who are working with or near electricity on a worksite. Rubber soled boots, for example, can help prevent electricity from entering the body when a live cord is stepped on. Special gloves are another great option for anyone who might be exposed to an electrical shock.
In the event that someone is shocked, having the equipment to help them is very important. If they are unconscious, having an automated electronic defibrillator (AED) nearby can be life saving. In the event that they are still being electrocuted, it is important to have a master power switch, which can cut power to an entire area quickly and easily. Depending on the specifics of the job site, different types of response equipment will be needed.
The Never Ending Cycle of Electrical Safety
When it comes to improving electrical safety for construction sites, it is important to ensure everyone knows that there is always more than can be done. Everyone should work together to identify risks, and take steps to eliminate or reduce them as much as possible. In addition, looking at what type of impact specific tasks could have on the electrical safety is also a good idea. Finishing building a wall on the site, for example, may make it necessary to use longer extension cords. If that is the case, the safety of those cords needs to be evaluated before they are used.
Electrical safety always need to be a priority from the moment people arrive on a construction site until the job is successfully completed. With proper training, equipment and attention, it is possible to keep everyone safe from electrical shock while working at a construction site.