Safety Checklists and Communication Tools for Electrical ContractorsOpinion
Posted by: electime 15th September 2023
Recent statistics from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries indicate that up to 126 workers lost their lives due to electricity-related incidents in the US in 2020. Most electrical injuries occur during the installation, maintenance, and repair of electrical work.
Hence, your workplace should observe appropriate safety protocols to anticipate and mitigate occupational hazards. Our quick guide explores effective electrical safety checklists and suitable communication tools for electrical contractors and workers.
Safety Checklists: The Foundation of Safe Electrical Work
Now, electrical contractors implement varying safety checklists depending on the nature of risk exposure and industry safety standards applicable to their work environments. Still, here is the most common list of actions you can expect in an electrical safety checklist: –
Purpose: Hiring Competent Staff
Do your electrical workers and contractors have the suitable training, skillset, and knowledge to perform electrical work and mitigate injury to themselves and their teammates?
Purpose: Safe Electrical Installations
A checklist for safe electrical installations confirms that electrical systems are installed per industry safety standards, there are ample socket outlets to prevent fire accidents due to socket overloading, and existing electrical installations are operated and maintained in safe conditions.
Purpose: Provision of Safe and Suitable Electrical Tools and Systems
This section checks the suitability and safety of electrical equipment for the said work environments.Also, it addresses the equipment maintenance and replacement procedures, safety labeling, ease of access in times of emergencies, and the availability of special equipment in potentially explosive or flammable work conditions.
Typical questions to be answered include whether the outer sheaths of flexible cables are properly clamped to prevent the wires from pulling out of the terminals, do you join lengths of cable using appropriate cable couplers or connectors? And how are you protecting fragile electrical equipment like light bulbs?
Purpose: Limit Voltage Supply
Is your electrical equipment geared toward maintaining the supply voltage at the lowest level possible to get the job done? For example, are your temporary lighting systems operating at a maximum of 12v, 25v, 50v, or 110v?
Do you prioritize using safer battery-operated electric power tools?
Are your portable tools running from a 110v center-tapped-to-earth supply within easy reach?
Purpose: Provide Safety Devices
Do you provide electrical workers with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPEs)?
Do you have inbuilt residual current devices (RCDs) in higher voltage equipment (230 volts or higher) for added safety?
Does your RCD for protecting people have no more than a 30mA rated tripping current?
Are you using the RCD test button to monitor the proper functioning of the safety device? Is the RCD tripping frequently? If so, have you assessed the system, checked for faults, or consulted with the manufacturer of the RCD?
Purpose: Conduct Regular Preventive Maintenance
How often do you perform preventive maintenance on all electrical equipment and installations?
Do you consult the equipment users about the appropriate maintenance levels and frequencies?
Does your maintenance schedule include user checks by electrical workers, a visual inspection, and a portable appliance test (PAT) by an expert?
Creating Comprehensive Electrical Safety Checklists
Electrical contractors must perform a health and safety risk assessment before developing an appropriate safety checklist for their work environment. The risk assessment should answer such questions: –
Will your work halt if the electrical equipment is de-energized?
Select the potential hazards applicable to your current electrical work: –
- A congested workspace
- Cramped spaces
- Multiple sources of power supply
- Damp working conditions
- Harsh environmental conditions
- Hazardous working heights
- Operational pressure due to tight deadlines
- Unstable equipment
- Underground risky operations
- Low proximity to necessary equipment
- Handling toxic, corrosive, or radioactive materials
- Handling parts containing asbestos and PCBs
- Dirty or dusty work environments
- Proximity to other unidentified energy sources
- Inappropriate work practices and procedures
Real-time Communication: Tools for Enhanced Safety
Electrical contractors use various channels to communicate at a construction site. These include radios, hand signaling, and written notices. Also, they may use emails, text messaging, phone calls, and regular on-site meetings. The choice of communication depends on safety concerns, noise levels, and the nature of the message.
Communication in high-voltage areas can be poor due to excessive vibrations or loud noise. A misunderstanding can trigger a series of risks, resulting in injuries and damages. Likewise, prolonged exposure to higher currents can have long-term health side effects.
Then, workers can enhance their safety by using communication tools like noise-damping gadgets, wireless communication, battery-powered tools, and hot sticks, as follows: –
Wireless Communication Tools
Wireless communication tools free up the workers’ hands while allowing them to maintain a safe distance when communicating with their teammates. For example, electrical contractors may use codeless telephones, radio receivers, and wireless door openers for faster mobility.
Real-time Equipment Monitoring Systems
Electrical contractors install real-time equipment monitoring systems to detect abnormalities or malfunctions. Here, the monitoring system may generate a graphical representation displaying the fault at a glance as it happens.
Proximity Voltage Detectors
Proximity voltage detectors alert workers about hazardous voltage levels in their surroundings. They save time, solve equipment problems, and improve worker efficiency.
Double Hearing Protection
Electrical workers exposed to dangerous occupational noise levels may develop tinnitus and temporary or permanent hearing loss. In environments with noise levels of 70 dBA over 24 hours, workers should wear earplugs and earmuffs as a means of double hearing protection.
Effective Training on Safety Checklists and Tools
A well-written safety checklist is useless without adequate employee training on its implementation. Here, electrical contractors can perform on-site training to demonstrate the correct way of doing inspections and preventive maintenance procedures. Also, the workers should familiarize themselves with the applicable industry safety work practices and prevent injuries, deaths, and property damage due to electrical hazards. Then, they should strive for continuous improvement by regularly reviewing the current safety checklist. Moreover, they should stay up to date with the latest safety procedures.
Regulatory Compliance and Reporting
Finally, electrical contractors should ensure their electrical work and systems comply with the relevant regulations and standards. To do this, the contractors should conduct regular visual tests and inspections of their electrical equipment and installations and have them audited by a qualified electrician.
Staying safe while working in hazardous conditions requires a team effort from the electrical contractors and workers. Indeed, dozens of risk factors can trigger a chain reaction, resulting in significant or fatal injuries and property damage. Then, create a robust safety checklist for your electrical work. Set up real-time communication to enhance your safety. And strive to learn and improve over time.