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«This booklet provides a generic overview of a standards-related topic. This publication does not alter or determine compliance responsibilities, ...»

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U.S. Department of Labor

Elaine L. Chao, Secretary

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

John L. Henshaw, Assistant Secretary

OSHA 3075

2002 (Revised)

This booklet provides a generic overview of a

standards-related topic. This publication does not alter or

determine compliance responsibilities, which are described

in the OSHA standards and the Occupational Safety

and Health Act. Because interpretations and enforcement

policy may change over time, the best sources for additional guidance on OSHA compliance requirements are current administrative interpretations and decisions by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission and the courts. This publication is in the public domain and may be reproduced fully or partially without permission.

Source credit is requested but not required.

OSHA will make this information available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Call (202) 693 –1999.

The teletypewriter (TTY) number is (877) 889 –5627.

Contents Introduction

Why should you be concerned about electrical hazards?

What OSHA standards address electrical safety?.............. 3 How do OSHA’s standards minimize electrical hazards?

Electricity: The Basics

What affects the flow of electricity?

How does water affect the flow of electricity?............... 5 What causes shocks?

What effect do shocks have on the body?

What kind of burns can a shock cause?

Why do people sometimes “freeze” when they are shocked?

What should you do if someone “freezes” to a live electrical contact?

How can you tell if a shock is serious?

What is the danger of static electricity?

Protection Against Electrical Hazards

What is the best way to protect yourself against electrical hazards?

What protection does insulation provide?.................. 11 How do you identify different types of insulation?....... 11 What is guarding and what protection does it offer?

What is grounding and what protection does it offer?

i What are circuit protection devices and how do they work?

What work practices help protect you against electrical hazards?

How can you protect yourself against metal parts that become energized?

How can you prevent an accidental or unexpected equipment startup?

How can you protect yourself from overhead power lines?

What protection does personal equipment offer?....... 18 What role do tools play?

What special training do employees need?................ 18 What’s the value of a safety and health program in controlling electrical hazards?

How Can OSHA Help Me?

How does safety and health program management assistance help employers and employees?............... 20 What are state plans?

How can consultation assistance help employers?....... 21 Who can get consultation assistance and what does it cost?

Can OSHA assure privacy to an employer who asks for consultation assistance?

Can an employer be cited for violations after receiving consultation assistance?

Does OSHA provide any incentives for seeking consultation assistance?

What is the Voluntary Protection Program?................ 23 ii How does the Voluntary Protection Program work?.... 24 How does VPP help employers and employees?........ 24 How does OSHA monitor VPP sites?

Can OSHA inspect an employer who is participating in the VPP?

How can a partnership with OSHA improve worker safety and health?

What is OSHA’s Strategic Partnership Program (OSPP)?

What do OSPPs do?

Are there different kinds of OSPPs?

What are the benefits of participation in the OSPP?

Does OSHA have occupational safety and health training for employers and employees?............ 28 Does OSHA give money to organizations for training and education?

Does OSHA have other assistance materials available?

What do I do in case of an emergency?

Or if I need to file a complaint?

OSHA Offices

Regional Offices

Area Offices

State and Territories with OSHA-Approved Safety and Health Plans................ 48 OSHA Onsite Consultation Offices


T his booklet provides an overview of basic electrical safety on the job.

Electricity is essential to modern life, both at home and on the job. Some employees — engineers, electricians, electronic technicians, and power line workers, among them — work with electricity directly.

Others, such as office workers and sales people, work with it indirectly. Perhaps because it has become such a familiar part of our daily life, many of us don’t give much thought to how much our work depends on a reliable source of electricity. More importantly, we tend to overlook the hazards electricity poses and fail to treat it with the respect it deserves.

Why should you be concerned about electrical hazards?

Electricity has long been recognized as a serious workplace hazard, exposing employees to electric shock, electrocution, burns, fires, and explosions. In 1999, for example, 278 workers died from electrocutions at work, accounting for almost 5 percent of all on-the-job fatalities that year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What makes these statistics more tragic is that most of these fatalities could have been easily avoided.

What OSHA standards address electrical safety?

OSHA standards cover many electrical hazards in many different industries. OSHA’s general industry electrical safety standards are published in Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 1910.302 through 1910.308 — Design Safety Standards for Electrical Systems, and

1910.331 through 1910.335 — Electrical Safety-Related Work Practices Standards.

OSHA’s electrical standards are based on the National Fire Protection Association Standards NFPA 70, National Electric Code, and NFPA 70E, Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces.

OSHA also has electrical safety standards for the construction industry, in 29 CFR 1926, Subpart K. OSHA’s standards for marine terminals, in 29 CFR 1917, and for longshoring, in 29 CFR 1918, reference the general industry electrical standards in Subpart S of Part 1910. The shipyard standards, in 29 CFR 1915, cover limited electrical safety work practices in 29 CFR 1915.181.

Although OSHA operates a federal occupational safety and health program, 24 states and 2 territories operate their own OSHA-approved programs. In those states, the standards and other procedures governing electrical safety may not be identical to the federal requirements. They must, however, be at least as effective as the federal standards.

How do OSHA’s standards minimize electrical hazards?

OSHA standards focus on the design and use of electrical equipment and systems. The standards cover only the exposed or operating elements of an electrical installation such as lighting, equipment, motors, machines, appliances, switches, controls, and enclosures, requiring that they be constructed and installed to minimize workplace electrical dangers. Also, the standards require that certain approved testing organizations test and certify electrical equipment before use in the workplace to ensure it is safe.

Electricity: The Basics What affects the flow of electricity?

Electricity flows more easily through some materials than others. Some substances such as metals generally offer very little resistance to the flow of electric current and are called “conductors.” A common but perhaps overlooked conductor is the surface or subsurface of the earth. Glass, plastic, porcelain, clay, pottery, dry wood, and similar substances generally slow or stop the flow of electricity. They are called “insulators.” Even air, normally an insulator, can become a conductor, as occurs during an arc or lightning stroke.

How does water affect the flow of electricity?

Pure water is a poor conductor. But small amounts of impurities in water like salt, acid, solvents, or other materials can turn water itself and substances that generally act as insulators into conductors or better conductors. Dry wood, for example, generally slows or stops the flow of electricity.

But when saturated with water, wood turns into a conductor.

The same is true of human skin. Dry skin has a fairly high resistance to electric current. But when skin is moist or wet, it acts as a conductor. This means that anyone working with electricity in a damp or wet environment needs to exercise extra caution to prevent electrical hazards.

What causes shocks?

Electricity travels in closed circuits, normally through a conductor. But sometimes a person’s body — an efficient conductor of electricity — mistakenly becomes part of the electric circuit. This can cause an electrical shock. Shocks

occur when a person’s body completes the current path with:

• both wires of an electric circuit;

• one wire of an energized circuit and the ground;

• a metal part that accidentally becomes energized due, for example, to a break in its insulation; or

• another “conductor” that is carrying a current.

When a person receives a shock, electricity flows between parts of the body or through the body to a ground or the earth.

What effect do shocks have on the body?

An electric shock can result in anything from a slight tingling sensation to immediate cardiac arrest. The severity

depends on the following:

• the amount of current flowing through the body,

• the current’s path through the body,

• the length of time the body remains in the circuit, and

• the current’s frequency.

This table shows the general relationship between the amount of current received and the reaction when current flows from the hand to the foot for just 1 second.

–  –  –

* If the extensor muscles are excited by the shock, the person may be thrown away from the power source.

Source: W.B. Kouwenhoven, “Human Safety and Electric Shock,” Electrical Safety Practices, Monograph, 112, Instrument Society of America, p. 93. November 1968.

What kind of burns can a shock cause?

Burns are the most common shock-related injury.

An electrical accident can result in an electrical burn, arc burn, thermal contact burn, or a combination of burns.

Electrical burns are among the most serious burns and require immediate medical attention. They occur when electric current flows through tissues or bone, generating heat that causes tissue damage.

Arc or flash burns result from high temperatures caused by an electric arc or explosion near the body. These burns should be treated promptly.

Thermal contact burns are caused when the skin touches hot surfaces of overheated electric conductors, conduits, or other energized equipment. Thermal burns also can be caused when clothing catches on fire, as may occur when an electric arc is produced.

In addition to shock and burn hazards, electricity poses other dangers. For example, arcs that result from short circuits can cause injury or start a fire. Extremely high-energy arcs can damage equipment, causing fragmented metal to fly in all directions. Even low-energy arcs can cause violent explosions in atmospheres that contain flammable gases, vapors, or combustible dusts.

Why do people sometimes “freeze” when they are shocked?

When a person receives an electrical shock, sometimes the electrical stimulation causes the muscles to contract.

This “freezing” effect makes the person unable to pull free of the circuit. It is extremely dangerous because it increases the length of exposure to electricity and because the current causes blisters, which reduce the body’s resistance and increases the current.

The longer the exposure, the greater the risk of serious injury. Longer exposures at even relatively low voltages can be just as dangerous as short exposures at higher voltages.

Low voltage does not imply low hazard.

In addition to muscle contractions that cause “freezing,” electrical shocks also can cause involuntary muscle reactions.

These reactions can result in a wide range of other injuries from collisions or falls, including bruises, bone fractures, and even death.

What should you do if someone “freezes” to a live electrical contact?

If a person is “frozen” to a live electrical contact, shut off the current immediately. If this is not possible, use boards, poles, or sticks made of wood or any other nonconducting materials and safely push or pull the person away from the contact. It’s important to act quickly, but remember to protect yourself as well from electrocution or shock.

How can you tell if a shock is serious?

A severe shock can cause considerably more damage than meets the eye. A victim may suffer internal hemorrhages and destruction of tissues, nerves, and muscles that aren’t readily visible. Renal damage also can occur. If you or a coworker receives a shock, seek emergency medical help immediately.

What is the danger of static electricity?

Static electricity also can cause a shock, though in a different way and generally not as potentially severe as the type of shock described previously. Static electricity can build up on the surface of an object and, under the right conditions, can discharge to a person, causing a shock.

The most familiar example of this is when a person reaches for a door knob or other metal object on a cold, relatively dry day and receives a shock.

However, static electricity also can cause shocks or can just discharge to an object with much more serious consequences, as when friction causes a high level of static electricity to build up at a specific spot on an object. This can happen simply through handling plastic pipes and materials or during normal operation of rubberized drive or machine belts found in many worksites. In these cases, for example, static electricity can potentially discharge when sufficient amounts of flammable or combustible substances are located nearby and cause an explosion. Grounding or other measures may be necessary to prevent this static electricity buildup and the results.

Protection Against Electrical Hazards What is the best way to protect yourself against electrical hazards?

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