How to Prevent Electrical Accidents when using Power Hand Tools

The electrician job involves dealing with electricity on a daily basis. Electricity, one of the most versatile and widely used power sources, can be extremely dangerous and lethal. In particular, electrical hazards cause more than 300 electrocutions and 4,000 injuries in the workplace each year. It is obvious that electrical hazards are fatal and costly.

The human body consists mainly of water, so it is essentially an electrical conductor. Because of this, if a person comes in contact with an electrically energized object (e.g. a bare wire or a failed machinery) and that person is also touching the ground, an electrical circuit will be created and electricity will pass through the person to ground.

The magnitude of the current that will flow in that case through the body depends on the voltage of the electricity, its frequency and the resistance of the person’s body. The result can range from a minor tingle to a harmful and potentially lethal electrical shock.

Portable power tools are unfortunately one of the most frequent causes of death by electrocution. Frequent  tool and equipment defects include incorrectly grounded equipment. Sometimes the earth wires are missing, broken or incorrectly connected. Improperly connected power tools are yet another hazard. Another risky practice is the intentional use of obviously defective and unsafe tools or equipment in need of repair.

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Here are some ways to prevent electrical accidents with power hand tools:

  • Never use an electrical hand tool that does not carry the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Listing Mark. This mark is an assurance that the particular tool has been extensively tested and has been found to be safe.
  • If there are tools with a two-wire design in your toolbox, those should be immediately upgraded to a three-wire system by qualified personnel. If a tool cannot be upgraded, the throw it away. Most power tools in use today have a three-wire system, with the third wire serving as an emergency ground in case of an internal short or ground fault.
  • Avoid disconnecting or carrying power tools by their cords. Something like this will make the cord’s insulation to rapidly deteriorate. Additionally, inspect tool and extension cords frequently for fraying and other signs of deterioration. If any deterioration is found, repair the tool or replace it immediately.
  • Consider using a ground fault interrupter (GFI). GFIs do not replace traditional protection provided by current isolation, insulation and grounding. However, they are a backup if insulation or grounding fails. In that case, the GFI detects low levels of leaking current and cuts off power quickly when a leakage occurs.

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Some more quick tips to avoid electrical accidents:

  • Don’t use electrical tools or equipment that smokes, sparks, shocks, smells, blows a fuse, or trips a circuit.
  • Don’t use cords with bent or missing grounding plugs.
  • Don’t use water to extinguish an electrical fire.
  • Don’t touch anything electric when your hands are wet,.
  • Don’t touch an electrical shock victim.
  • Don’t place cords where they can be damaged.
  • Don’t place cords near heat or water.
  • Don’t permit overloaded outlets or circuits.
  • Don’t permit anyone who isn’t trained and qualified to repair electrical equipment.
  • Don’t permit unauthorized removal of a lockout device or tag.

Don’t forget, safety always comes first!