Here at IRC, we often work on roofs where power lines and electrical weather heads are in the area that we need to work. It is easy to underestimate the dangerous potential of electricity because its use is so common. However, electricity can cause burns, shocks, and electrocution. If the power lines are less than 7’ off the roof (at the lowest point), we need to protect the employees and maintain a safe work environment for all. At a minimum employees cannot get closer than 10’ from any power line. These hazards must be considered when working with equipment powered by electricity, working with electrical systems, or repairing broken energized equipment.
Here are just a few electrical safety tips and guidelines to ensure a safe work environment for all employees:
General safety guidelines:
- Always use caution when working with electricity.
- Post signs in all areas where electrical hazards are present.
- Make sure that connections are tight and that the grounding prong is in place.
- Only skilled electricians are allowed to perform any kind of electrical work.
- Supervisors have the responsibility of assuring that contractors and electricians are provided with and use the proper protective equipment (PPE).
- Keep electrical cords out of hallways; if cords must cross doorways, assure that they are completely covered to prevent tripping hazards.
- Electrical wires and lines must be protected from vehicle traffic.
- Use appropriate equipment and lines for the current carrying capacity.
- Do not hang temporary wiring over nails, rebar, or other metal objects.
- Check cables frequently for wear. Certify that flexible cords are not frayed or damaged.
- If the power lines are less than 7′ off the roof (at the lowest point) we need to protect the employees by wrapping the lines. At a minimum jobsite employees cannot get closer than 10′ from any power lines.
Power tool safety:
- Always unplug tools and equipment before making adjustments or repairs and when you are finished using the equipment.
- Check power tools and equipment frequently for wear, and assure they are in sound condition.
- Use equipment and power tools that are either double-insulated or connected by cords with three-wire plugs.
- Do not use power tools or equipment in a wet area.
- Utilize ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).
- Tag damaged, unsafe, tools “out of service”
Working around electrical sources:
- Use insulated tools that have been approved for working around energized sources.
- Do not use ladders with metal side rails around electrical hazards. Instead, use ladders constructed of fiberglass.
Plugging too many appliances into an electrical circuit can result in an overload of the circuit. In extreme cases or if the wiring is not up to code a fire could result. To avoid an overload:
- Do not connect multiple power strips together.
- Do not use extension cords in place of permanent wiring.
- Assure that all circuits have circuit breakers installed to provide adequate protection.
- Assure that all circuits are properly grounded.
The Physical Effect:
- An electrical burn or shock can occur when a body part completes an electrical circuit.
- Electric charge flows through the body to ground.
- It does not take high voltage to injure or kill— just 50 milliamps, less power than it takes to run a drill, can paralyze muscles (which cause a locked grip on tools, etc.) or stop someone from breathing.
- High voltage electricity can jump, or arc, through the air without even touching the power line!
When dealing with electricity, knowing the hazards will help prevent injuries and death. Be sure to follow all safety procedures when dealing with power lines and electric equipment. Don’t take risks with your life or the life of your crew members.