Electricity - The 'SILENT KILLER'

Source: AVO Training Institute, Inc.

By Dennis K. Neitzel, CPE

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Electricity is often referred to as a "silent killer" because it cannot be tasted, seen, heard, or smelled. It is essentially invisible. Electricity has long been recognized as a serious workplace hazard, exposing employees to electrical shock, which can result in electrocution, serious burns, or falls that result in other injuries or even death.

We all know that electricity is essential to our everyday life, both at home and on the job. 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. Statistics show that there are several hundred electrocutions each year, all of which could have been prevented. Electricity is no respecter of persons; it will injure or kill a custodian, manager, president, or office worker just as fast as it will an electrician. The laws of physics for electricity apply to everyone. Some employees work with electricity directly as part of their everyday jobs while others work with it indirectly, primarily by the use of cord and plug connected equipment and tools.

A basic understanding of the shock hazard along with the physiological effects on the human body is vital to an understanding of electrical safety. The following discussion will address the most common effects of electrical shock.

Electrical shock occurs when a person's body completes the current path between two wires of an electrical circuit or from the energized wire to a grounded surface or object. Shocks can result in anything from a slight tingle to immediate cardiac arrest. The severity depends on several factors:

  • Body resistance (wet or dry skin are major factors of resistance)
  • Circuit voltage
  • Amount of current flowing through the body
  • Current path through the body
  • Duration of contact

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