Electrical Injuries – Still Happening After All These Years Hazard Alert

Topic: Electrical Injuries – Still Happening After All These Years
Date Issued: June 17, 2011 Date Revised: September 1, 2022

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 contacts 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, 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 electricity. Two of the electricians were journeymen, the third, an apprentice working under a journeyman's supervision. Investigating officers 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 personal protective equipment.
  • There were violations for absence of safe lock-out procedures and violation of the Canadian Electrical Code rules for working on energized circuits.

WorkSafeNB health and safety officers stipulate:

  1. No repairs or alterations shall be carried out on any live equipment except where complete disconnection of the equipment is not feasible.  Canadian Electrical Code, Part 1 C22.1:21-Section 2-304 1)
  2. The employer shall ensure that before a qualified person works on electrical equipment that the qualified person places the electrical equipment in an *electrically safe work condition. Reg. 91-191, subsection 287.3(4)(a).
  3. When the circumstances do not permit electrical equipment to be placed in an electrically safe work condition before working on or near energized exposed parts of the electrical equipment, an employer shall ensure the work is carried out be a qualified person and the employer and qualifies person shall each ensure that a written code of practice is established in accordance with section 287.41. Reg. 91-191, subsection 287.4(3).
  4. When having to test for absence of voltage or having to work on or near energized exposed parts, an employer shall use CSA Standard Z462-15, “Workplace Electrical Safety” or a standard offering equivalent or better protection as a guide for the selection of personal protective equipment and other protective equipment that employees are required to use. Reg. 91-191, subsection 287.41(2).

*”electrically safe work condition” means, with respect to electrical equipment with a potential exceeding 30 Vac or 60 Vdc, a state in which an electrical conductor or a circuit part has been disconnected from energized parts of the electrical equipment, locked out, tested to ensure the absence of voltage and, if necessary, grounded.

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