In construction, electricity plays a big role in making a project successful. Operations can’t obviously go on without power to make equipment, machines, and some tools work. The site needs light so workers can see their way and what they are working on.
However, working around electricity can be very dangerous, evenly deadly at times. But with hazards are properly identified and controlled, with crew members receiving adequate training and instructions, potential hazards can be reduced.
According to a survey, 52% of all electrical fatalities in the US workplace accounts for electrical hazards in the construction site. Most of these accidents, where some even led to fatalities, were caused by direct contact with overhead power lines or power tools and machines with faulty wirings.
But who is really at risk?
Obviously, the electricians, electrical engineers, and electrical subcontractors face the biggest risk. But there are other jobs associated with electricity in the construction industry.
Electrical subcontractors and his electricians, as well as other crew members, perform one of the most dangerous jobs on the field, raising serious concerns for electrical safety in the construction industry. They do electrical installations, testing of equipment, inspection and maintenance, and repairs.
People who are indirectly working with electricity are also at risk. Other construction workers can trip on wires or electrocute too from dangling open live wires. They can accidentally use equipment that is under repair or maintenance and cause damage or hurt themselves.
There are a lot more hazards on the site and knowing them will help workers at the site to avoid accidents and fatalities. So before we look into the tips on how to make the site a safer place, let’s first look into these hazards and know where they can be found on the site.
Common Electrical Hazards in Construction Sites
1.Overhead Power Lines
Overhead powered electrical lines or live wires have high voltages flowing through them. Once in contact, one can suffer from major burns and electrocution. So remember to maintain a safe distance from them. Label them and put warning signs. You can also install safety barriers to keep people off the power lines.
2.Damaged Power Tools/Machine/Equipment
Damaged tools, equipment, or machines that are powered by electricity can also cause an electrician or any worker’s life. Tell construction workers not to try to fix them. Instead, call electrical subcontractors and industrial electricians will be sent to the site for repairs. If you were able to win bid and are an electrical subcontractor in a construction project, then set schedules for inspection, repair, and maintenance. Observe Out Tag Out (LOTO) procedures at all times before commencing any electrical maintenance and repair works.
3.Inappropriate Wires and Overloaded Circuits
Inappropriate wire size can cause overheating or overloading circuits that may lead to a fire. So always use the correct wire size to handle electrical load more effectively. Use the correct extension cord designed for heavy-duty use.
4.Exposed Electrical Parts
When the installation of the electrical system is still ongoing, there will be a lot of exposed wires and open power distribution units or detached insulation parts. These parts can cause potential shocks and burns. Secure them with tags and barriers so those that are not a part of your electrical contracting team won’t make a mistake of touching them.
The most common OSHA electrical violation is the improper grounding of equipment. When the ground is properly set, it can reduce the risk of electrocution. The metallic ground pin on equipment should not be removed as it is the one returning unwanted voltage to the ground.
Insulation on wires keeps voltages contained. When they are damaged, people can get electrocuted. When replacing damaged insulation, be sure to turn off all power sources and never attempt to cover them with just electrical tape.
Electricity travels fast and wide on the water so never operate electrical equipment in wet locations. When it’s the rainy season, be sure to schedule your electrical work when the rain stops. Besides, even when it’s the wet season, it won’t rain every day for the whole week or month. Only your qualified electrician should inspect electrical equipment that has gotten wet before energizing it.
Safety should be the highest priority on construction sites. Now, we look into the best practices for improving your electrical safety practices as well as implementation on the site.
1.Conduct Risk Assessments
Electrical subcontractors are responsible for electrical safety on the site. Yes, the general contractor may have his own safety engineer and officers, but no one can do a better job at keeping the construction site electrocution-safe than an electrical subcontractor.
Before the construction begins, visit the site to do an on-site survey to see possible risk areas that are related to electrical hazards. Doing this will not only allow your workers to understand what dangers they face in the area, but it also allows for the setup of a safety plan and procedures to prevent any mishaps.
2.Determine the Areas with Electrical Hazards
After inspecting the site, you should plot a floor plan that indicates where each electrical hazard is located. One efficient way to keep track of all the hazards is to utilize electrical subcontractor project management software. Once completed, the information will be automatically saved to the cloud base for your electricians across the job site to know exactly where to take extra caution.
Share the floor plan to the general contractor too so that he can post it on their own construction project management software.
3.Use Qualified Testing Equipment
It’s important in a construction project to have all equipment checked regularly to ensure a continuous flow of work. But when you are checking them, make sure to use only the approved electrical power testing equipment to avoid risks of getting shocked or fatal electrocutions caused by fake or substandard tools. The testing equipment your industrial electricians should have can include voltage detectors, clamp meters, and receptacle testers.
4.Proper Training for Handling Electrical Equipment
One of the most in-demand job orders for electricians on a construction site is to maintain and repair electric equipment. So invest in sending your electricians to proper training before you dispatch them on the site. Sending them when they aren’t really knowledgeable about handling construction equipment can put their lives at risk. Teach your electricians too on how to properly use every tool, especially when engaging in direct electrical work.
5.Use Voltage Regulators and Circuit Breakers
Surge protectors are important in keeping the site safe from electricity-related accidents. They are used to shut down power during an emergency, while voltage regulators help to prevent equipment damage during electricity surges.
6.Use Cord Protectors and Organize Wires
You know that a lot of people work on a construction site. Help keep them safe by organizing wires that can trip them off or electrocute them when they are energized. Cable covers and cord protectors should be used to protect the wires from being damaged and also to protect the workers from risks of electrocution.
7.Always Wear Personal Protective Equipment
Prevention is better than cure. Dispatch your team wearing complete and the right personal protective equipment as they serve as their first line of defense to potential shocks as they work on the site. The amount they wear should depend on how exposed to electricity they are. Electrical gloves and thick footwear are some of the basic equipment that should be used when working with electrical equipment.
If they will be working with wiring or in close contact with electricity, they should wear a face shield, fire-resistant helmet, and other forms of eye and ear protection to ensure their safety.
Safety should always be the number one priority of business owners, especially from an electrical standpoint. Accidents due to electrical hazards have been a major concern in the construction industry and with the above tips, you can have better insight and understanding of how to minimize the risks of working with electrical equipment.
Don’t forget to communicate regularly with your site workers to guide them through their work, most especially when they are dealing with a newly released equipment. Make your electrical subcontractor project management software such as Pro Crew Schedule your aid in connecting with your team.