Electrical safety procedures in the workplace aren't there just for qualified workers.

Anyone using electricity should recognize the shock and fire hazards of electricity.

Bottom line, everyone in your workplace should know the basics of electrical safety, especially with some very common items such as portable tools, extension cords and ladders.

How do your employees know when an electrical hazard is present? Here are just a few things to cover in your workplace safety rules.

Electrical Safety Portable Electric Tools

Many unqualified workers use portable electric tools (drills, saws, sanders) in their day-to-day jobs. It seems safe enough, but before using, employees should visually inspect the tools for:

  • Damaged or broken casings
  • Missing ground prongs on three-prong plugs
  • Defective or loose switches
  • Damaged cords such as broken outer sheaths with exposed inner wires

Safety practices should include:

  • Use the tool and/or cord as shown on the tool's listing and labeling.
  • Use cords that are GFCI-protected, especially when working in damp locations.
  • Inspect cords to ensure they are in good condition and free of any defects.
  • Never use cords that are run through doors and/or pinch points.
  • Don't use cords that are tightly coiled; they may not be able to cool properly when overloaded.
  • Be sure the tool is properly grounded. Never use an un-insulated tool without a grounding plug.
  • Never use a tool around flammable vapors or gases.
  • Know that turning off the switch does not always turn off all electricity.

Most importantly, if the tool or cord is damaged, take it out of service and have it repaired. This is a job for qualified workers.

Electrical Safety: Extension Cords

Extension cords are commonly used in the workplace and may not be seen as a potential safety hazard. Extension cords need to be:

  • Used as a temporary source of energy only.
  • Protected from physical damage at all times.
  • Inspected before use.
  • Routed right so it doesn't cause a trip, pinch or snagging accident. That includes routing around standing water or puddles.
  • Suitable for the environment you're working in, i.e., indoor/outdoor, rain or sunshine.
  • Loose and have slack, not drawn out tight.
  • Unplugged by grasping the plug not the cord.
  • Rated appropriately for the equipment in use.

And remember, never use an extension cord as a substitute for permanent wiring.

Electrical Safety: Ladders

Again, ladders are a common sight in any workplace, even office buildings. But do you know if the ladders in your building have non-conductive side rails?

Having ladders with non-conductive side rails is the first rule. And always inspect them before using. Paint, grease or other coatings could mean the rails are no longer non-conductive. Other safety rules when using ladders:

  • Stay away from exposed energized equipment.
  • Always look up before you lift of climb up.
  • Be aware of overhead lines and cords.
  • Use a minimum approach distance of 10 feet to overhead lines.

Signs, symbols and tags are there to warn your workers of potential electrical hazards.

What should workers do if they find an electrical hazard? Tell a supervisor or the site’s electrical safety officer and let them handle the situation.

Electrical Safety Resources

Know who is “qualified” vs “unqualified.”

Unqualified workers may include industrial machine operators, maintenance workers, supervisors, mechanics, welders, technicians .. even office managers, sales reps and other non-technical positions.

Learn more about electrical safety on the job and what you can do to make your work environment a safer place to be.