National Electrical Safety Month Emphasizes Safe Workplace Practice

May is National Electrical Safety Month and a time for companies and trade craftsmen to reevaluate their safety when working with electricity. LEAD New England Managing Partner Dick McLaughlin says his skilled trade staffing company has Construction Electricembraced this year’s Electrical Safety Month theme is Energy Resilience.

What is Energy Resilience? Dick explains, energy resilience is when business’ ensure reliable and regular energy supply and has contingency plans in place should a power failure occur. Energy resilience focuses on preparing, adapting, and recovering from low-probability, high consequence of system failure.

LEAD is using this month to ask its business clients and skilled trade worker employees to examine how emerging technology, such as photovoltaics, electric vehicles, and energy storage systems, can provide energy resilience and bring unique challenges in safety.

“It’s important to look at the workplace injury and fatality statistics, especially in the new age of the electrical industry and systems,” says Dick. In 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 126 fatal electrical injuries in the workplace. The good news is that number is the lowest since 2003!  “In fact, the U.S. saw an impressive 24% decrease in electrical fatalities in 2020 compared to 2019,” says Dick, a 25-year veteran in the staffing industry and specializing in the electrical trades.

Although the decrease is promising, there are several factors that should be considered when reviewing electrical fatalities and injuries. “A 10% decrease in total labor hours worked in 2020 – of which COVID could be a main factor, is considered. Another contributing factor is a loss of veteran trade workers in various industries due to the Great Resignation,” says Dick. He adds, experience is a proven factor in the injury statistic – the more experienced, the less chance of injury.

The BLS breaks down these statistics further, looking at the industries that contribute to the safety statistics. The Construction and Extraction category makes up 44% of electrical fatalities in the workplace. Another 20% come from installation, maintenance, and repair.

While electrical professionals should consider electrical safety every day, National Electrical Safety Month serves as a great reminder that we need to do so.  So, what can we do to improve electrical safety in the workplace to decrease injury and fatality? Dick explains, it’s in the assessment of risk and the safety plan that will decrease on-the-job safety injuries. He offers these strategies when building and ensuring Energy Resilience and the newest emerging technologies.

  1. Your first step to being energy resilient is to identify and assess the risks. By doing so, you may decrease workplace injury.
  2. To avoid these risks, always use an electrical safe work program to prevent electrical shock or arc flash injuries, keep unqualified workers away from energized equipment or circuits, and train qualified workers on the correct procedures when working on energized equipment or circuits.
  3. Put simply, unqualified workers have little or no experience identifying and properly working in and around potential electrical hazards and can—when deployed to tasks that they aren’t qualified to handle—create unnecessary risks for the companies that either employ them or subcontract work to them. Simply being an electrician is not enough. The person must receive the proper training in safety as well as technology.
  4. Knowing your limits and applying the best electrical safety practices can help reduce the risk of electrical shock and death. It is safer to work within your scope of expertise and if you are not confident to do the job, don’t hesitate to call for help from a qualified authorized person.
  5. Use checklists when applying electrical safety practices; do not rely on your memory (“Did I lock out? or Did I tag that?”). The checklist is a powerful tool to ensure your safety when working on or near electrical equipment hazards.
  6. The most grave concern is working “live” or near live wires, instead of de-energizing and using lockout/tagout procedures.
  7. De-energize and lock out tag out electrical circuits/parts you will be working on or nearby. Work only on live electrical circuits/parts in accordance with a permit system with specific procedures such as solar arrays and be sure you are qualified to do so.
  8. Wear appropriate personal protective equipment and use proper tools when de-energizing or testing live electrical circuits/parts or otherwise working live.

Dick McLaughlin brings his vast knowledge in the electrical trade and staffing industry to companies seeking workforce solutions through qualified and experienced skilled workers. He is ready to work hard for your business to build success while keeping businesses and workers safe! Call Dick today at 508.801.3755.