Working Safely Around Electricity (Canada's WorkSafeBC)

Electricity can be our best friend - or our worst enemy. When handled improperly, electricity can injure of kill. Injuries can range from shock to sever burns. Injuries and fatalities can occur from accidents involving low voltages or from high voltages, usually from contact with high-voltage power lines.

This booklet has three parts:

  • Part 1 describes the dangers of contact with low-voltage electricity, common problem areas, and safe work practices.
  • Part 2 describes the dangers of contact with high-voltage electricity and provides guidelines for working safely near power lines.
  • Part 3 describes electrical injuries and first aid.

This booklet provides an overview of key electrical hazards. It is not intended as a guide to performing electrical work. Electrical workers must be familiar with the codes and regulations that cover power lines, electrical equipment, and installation in more detail. If your install, alter, or maintain electrical equipment, you must be qualified to carry out the work, as required but the Safety Standards Act and the regulations made under it.

This booklet does not replace the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation. Refer to the Regulation, especially Part 19: Electrical Safety, for specific requirements.

What do low voltage and high voltage mean?

According to the Regulation, low voltage means "a potential difference (voltage) from 31 to 750 volts inclusive, between conductors or between a conductor and ground."

High-voltage means "a potential difference (voltage) of more than 750 volts between conductors or between a conductor and ground."

This booklet explains the dangers of working around and on energized low-voltage equipment and near high-voltage conductors. It is written for supervisors and workers who work around and with electrical equipment and near power lines, and who are familiar with the basic hazards of electrical contact.

If you are a painter or equipment operator, you may work around electrical equipment and conductors but may not be familiar with all the hazards of electrical contact. This booklet is not a training manual if this is the case. You should follow up with your supervisor or WorkSafeBC for more information on how the hazards and safety steps outlined in this booklet apply to your work conditions. All workers must be informed of potential electrical hazards before being allowed to work near energized conductors or equipment.

Arc flashes

You don't have to be physically touching energized equipment or a pwerline to be seriously injured or killed. Electricity can "jump" through the air, which is known as arcing. Arc flashes can occur when there is an electrical fault and energized conductors are short-circuited or grounded. Arc flash burns are the most common electrical injury. Arc flashes can kill at a distance of 3 m (10 ft.)

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Publication #: ISSN 1496-6476 | 2014 edition

Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More