Electrical Injuries - Still Happening after All These Years

The electrical hazards that continue to injure and kill workers tend to be simple, obvious and well-known. Why do these incidents keep happening?

Normally, electricity is extremely safe. Considering how everyone is almost constantly surrounded by electrical wires and equipment, there are relatively few accidents. However, that’s of little comfort to the hundreds of workers injured or killed each year as a result of electrical incidents.

Perhaps it’s not the hazard workers need to be aware of, but the pattern of behaviours leading to deadly contact. Electricity commands respect. It flows through conductors along the path of least resistance, seeking ground. The human body, consisting of about 70% water, makes an excellent conductor. When a person’s body comes into contact with an energized conductor – a live wire – it makes a very good path to the ground for a current.

In New Brunswick, a serious electrical accident resulted in severe burns to the hands and faces of the electricians involved. Apart from the injuries and suffering sustained by the workers, fire and downtime losses were substantial.

The workers hadn’t de-energized the electrical panels or circuits on which they were working and suffered flash burns from electrocution. Two of the electricians were journeymen, the third, an apprentice working under the supervision of a journeyman. Investigating offcers determined:

  • The apprentice was inexperienced and there was inadequate supervision by the journeyman.
  • There was a lack of knowledge or careless use of testing equipment.
  • The electricians were not wearing the proper safety gear.
  • There were violations or absence of safe lock-out procedures and violations of the Canadian Electrical Code rules for working on energized circuits.

WorkSafeNB health and safety officers recommend:

  1. No repairs or alterations should be carried out on any live equipment except where complete disconnection is not practicable. General Regulation 91-191, Subsection 287.3(1); Canadian Electrical Code, Part 1-Section 2-304 1)
  2. No one should work on any live equipment unless protected by approved protective equipment or insulating devices such as tongs, rubber gloves, boots, mats, etc., which must always be maintained in proper condition. General Regulation 91-191, Subsection 287.4(1); Canadian Electrical Code, Part 1-Section 2-306
  3. Adequate precautions, such as locks on circuit breakers or switches, warning notices, sentries, or other equally effective means, must be taken to prevent electrical equipment from being electrically charged when work is being done. General Regulation 91-191, Subsection 287.3(1); Canadian Electrical Code, Part 1-Section 2-304 3)
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