Worker Safety When the Power is Out
When it comes to worker safety, a power outage is a call for emergency electrical workers to get to work quickly. No matter the time, day, or weather, the power doesn’t stay out too long thanks to these diligent workers. Unfortunately, one of the most prevalent forms of accidents these workers face comes from phenomena known as “backfeed.” Learn how to avoid these problems in our latest blog post! Backfeed can occur when the power goes out, and workers bring out portable electrical generators to take over. If these units are not installed the correct way, a potentially dangerous situation can put everyone at risk. Strong currents can electrocute anyone, so this is one threat that should be taken seriously. This particular scenario is even more significant for emergency workers who have to repair down lines. Stay Aware of All the Risks before Attempting Repair. Workers who are out working on a power line do not know if people inside the home or business have already switched on their generators. In some instances, if they have, a powerful live current can “feedback” to the main line and cause electrocution. All Lines May Be "Hot". The number one thing to keep in mind is that all power lines may indeed be “hot.” Workers who approach their job with that idea in mind reduce the chance of accidental electrocution. Since any of the lines could have current, it’s worth acting as if they all do until proven otherwise. In this instance, it’s worth determining whether the worker has the proper safety protective equipment. If no such equipment is available, ground all lines on either side of the work area to be on the safe side. Safety workers must wear gloves and sleeves with NEC ratings and approval. Without this gear in place, repairs should not be attempted because of the risk of electrocution. Don't Neglect Conducting Standard Tests for Low Voltage. It pays to conduct standard tests on the lines. These tests will determine whether high-voltage electricity is active. Voltages between 601 and 230,000 volts are known as “high voltage,” and any number higher than 230,000 is called “extra high-voltage.” High voltage and extra high voltage readings represent a genuine risk of electrocution. Keep in mind that lower voltages are also deadly, so it’s not sufficient to merely test for high voltage. The recommendation is for the worker to check lines for low voltage as well using light-emitting diode type equipment. The Public Should Play Their Part. The public can also help keep emergency electrical workers safe. The main thing they can do is have their backup electrical generators installed to spec by professionals. They should also ensure that they have their main circuit breaker is in the off position before they turn on the backup. These simple steps help create a safe environment for emergency workers. Together, the public and emergency workers can create the safest possible environment. They may not be able to stop every mishap, but they can eliminate the vast majority with enough cooperation and effort. There’s little doubt that backfeed is a potentially dangerous problem. Emergency workers should adopt a mindset that puts safety first when dealing with power outages. If workers assume that there is an ever-present danger in the form of hot lines, they will be more circumspect when dealing with the repairs. Develop a Safety First Mindset. Ongoing safety training is a crucial step on the road to worker safety. Workers who develop not only the right frame of mind but who also understand the intricacies of the technical details that create a safe work environment can avoid serious injury or death. The proper way of looking at the risks and the knowledge to handle them will keep workers safe, even when the power is out. Severe weather continues to test the skills of emergency electrical workers. Sudden, violent storms create a chaotic repair situation where understanding the risks and how to deal with them is crucial. Attention to proper procedures and a methodical approach to testing are critical. Some instances of electrocution are fatal, so every bit of prevention a worker can muster is worth the effort. Although we hope this blog post has been helpful in your understanding of power outage safety in the workplace, it's not a replacement for online OSHA 30-hour training. Sign up for your course today!