What are electrical hazards?
An electrical hazard is a dangerous condition where a worker can or does make electrical contact with ’live’ elements (parts that are normally energized) or items that may have become energized due to some type of failure. From that contact, the person may sustain an injury from shock, and there may be potential for the worker to be involved in an arc flash (electrical explosion) which can result in significant burns among other injuries.
What the law says
Employers need to develop and implement a written health and safety program that supports the control of electrical hazards in the workplace and follow the regulations that apply to electrical hazards.
Guidelines for controlling electrical energy and/or working on or near electrical equipment and conductors can be found in several documents, including:
- Construction Regulation (Ontario Regulation 213/91 – Sections 181-195.3)
- Ontario Electrical Safety Code
- Ontario Regulation 213/07 – Fire Code Part 4, Subsection 4.1.8 (Handling Flammable and Combustible Liquids)
- Ontario Regulation 851, Regulation for Industrial Establishments, Section 22, Subsection 4
- Ontario Regulation 851, Regulation for Industrial Establishments, Sections 40-42, 74-76
- Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations SOR/86-304 – Pat VIII (wasn’t sure if Federal legislations was required)
- NPFA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace
- CSA Z462 Workplace Electrical Safety
- CSA Z460 Control of Hazardous Energy - Lockout and Other Methods
*Current versions of the documents indicated above should always be referenced
How having a workplace electrical safety electrical hazard program can help your business
The most common type of work to result in an electrocution is routine work involving repair and maintenance. Ensuring lockout procedures are followed and that circuits are tested to ensure they are de-energized, is crucial.
The main dangers of electrical hazards are electrical shock and/or fire. Nearly half of incidents involve people working on electrical equipment while it was energized. Other causes of injury involved malfunctioning meters, faulty equipment and the use of equipment in close proximity to live electricity.
While many incidents involve workers in an electrical trade such as electricians, the vast majority of incidents involve workers in other occupations such as maintenance workers, millwrights, apprentices, labourers, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technicians, equipment operators, supervisors, and drivers.
The impact of an electrical injury or fatality can be devastating for the workers involved and crippling in terms of production downtime, legal fees and associated costs, so having an effective electrical hazards program and understanding the regulatory requirement for managing electrical hazards is critical.
What you can do
Employers should identify potential electrical hazards in the workplace, create the necessary policies and programs, provide personal protective equipment as appropriate, and provide training on how to safely work with or near electrical hazards. Only authorized individuals, who are qualified and properly trained should be locking and tagging out equipment and/or working on or near electrical hazards.