Electrical Safety: A Beginner’s Guide

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Electrical Safety: A Beginner’s Guide

Electricity is such a necessary part of our lives that we tend to take it for granted- often underestimating its capacity for causing injury. Fortunately, many potentially dangerous situations can be avoided by following basic electrical safety principles and adhering to safe practices.  Through my personal experience and a slew of training, the following blog is intended to share some useful knowledge and to help keep you (and those around you) safe when dealing with electricity.

Disclaimer: Please be advised, this is a simple recommendation blog and is not meant to be an official document. Anytime you are working with electricity, you should first determine if you are really the person who should be doing the work. If you are not comfortable, stop and find a qualified person to complete the task. (If you are interested in becoming a qualified electrical worker, I would recommend looking into the proper courses such as NFPA 70E or what your employer requires.) 

Before working on any type of electrical component, the safest thing you can do is simply power it off. While this may seem obvious when you’re working on a household lighting project or wiring up devices in an industrial setting, what do you do when you’re in a situation where it’s not possible to turn things off prior to working on them?  Often times, when troubleshooting, you may need things energized to test connections or functionality of a device. In this type of situation, before beginning any work, it’s imperative to make sure you wear Personal Protective Equipment and follow proper Lock Out Tag Out (LOTO) techniques.

So, now that you’ve determined you’re qualified to do the work and you’ve taken the preliminary safety measures, what’s next?

Start by calculating how far away you must remain from “live” components.  There are two major distance-rating scales used in the industry; approach boundaries and arc flash boundaries.  These should be noted on the panels or equipment that is being worked on.

Approach Boundary
Approach boundaries are broken up into two areas: limited approach and restricted approach.  The limited approach boundary is the distance an unqualified person must keep away from a live part. They may, however, enter the area, if a qualified person accompanies them. (If you do not know the difference then you are most likely unqualified and should not be engaging in repair / troubleshooting.) The restricted approach boundary is the distance an unqualified person must keep away from live parts at ALL times.  For a qualified person to cross this boundary they must use correct voltage rated PPE on the body part/parts crossing the boundary, or use insulated tools as long as any body part does not cross the boundary.

Arc Flash Boundary
An arc flash boundary serves as the minimum safe distance from electrical equipment. Sometimes this is greater, and usually different, from the approach boundaries. In such instances, the worker must always meet the conditions of each boundary. The arc flash boundary is determined by the available fault current and the period of time over which it is available. Beyond this boundary, an arc flash could result in a burn that is not treatable. Entry beyond this boundary requires appropriate PPE for the potential hazard.

Once you’ve completed these steps, you are ready to begin. Just remember, working with electricity can be dangerous. Taking the time to determine and implement the necessary electrical safety precautions is critical to reducing risk and protecting yourself and others from serious workplace hazards.

Did you know…..

If you encounter a downed electric line, do not simply walk or run away.  Electrical potential will reduce, as you get further away from the line.  Therefore, if you take a normal step away from the source, your feet may occupy two different electric potential areas, thus creating a path that electricity would rather follow to get from one potential to the other as shown.  The correct action would be to keep your feet close together and hop away. That way, both legs stay in relatively the same potential area.

Do you have any safety tips to share? We’d love to hear from you. Leave us a message below.
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Electrical testing and inspection aren’t necessarily “one-and-done” procedures. To ensure the ongoing safety and functioning of the electrical systems in place on your property, it’s important to have inspection and testing performed on a fairly regular basis.


You are right Bill! Proper maintenance is essential.

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An electrician also knows exactly where and how to get at the wiring involved in a project, which means that their work will be minimally invasive when it comes to going into walls and other access points. By doing a project yourself, you could end up with a big mess on your hands.

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