Electrical Safety: Common Hazards

1,881 employees lost their lives to work-related electrical incidents between 2004 and 2013 according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.  432 of those fatalities resulted from incidents involving less than 220v.  Despite this fact, many workers mistakenly believe that only high voltage can be fatal.  They become too familiar lower voltages and may not respect electricity because isn’t high voltage.

Familiarity leads to dangerous habits.  Workers risk their lives every day when they don’t treat electricity as a serious hazard.  Any voltage can be lethal if there is enough current flowing through the body.  Electrocution isn’t the only hazard.  Arc flash is a lethal hazard and becomes more likely based on employees’ bad habits.  Employee exposures can be reduced if we work with our employees and prevent them from developing dangerous habits.

6 Common Electrical Hazards

  Uncovered Circuit Breaker Panels

Arc flash and electrocution are hazards that workers are exposed to when they work near uncovered energized electrical boxes.  A fault or dropped tool can cause an arc flash hotter than the sun in an instant.

  Incorrect Covers for Circuit Breaker Panels

Improvised and improper covers, like paper or cardboard, provide no protection from the boxes electrical hazards, and increase the risk of fire.

  Missing Punch Outs

Missing punch outs also compromise the box’s protection against electrical hazards.  The opening creates a pathway for electricity that can electrocute nearby workers and increases the risk for fire.

  Damaged Electrical Cords

Whether it is a hardwired cord for production machinery, or an extension cord powering a table saw, cords are a necessity for powering the machinery that lets workers do their jobs.  Cords need to be inspected before each use to prevent fatal electrical incidents.

  Temporary Power not in Conduit Below Seven feet

On construction sites, even temporary wiring needs to be in conduit up to seven feet.  Over time, the wiring may droop, or may be moved by others working on the site.  Wiring needs to be checked regularly to ensure it does not droop below seven feet, exposing anyone in the area to electrocution hazards.

  Temporary Lighting is not Properly Secured

Temporary lighting must be secured with nonconductive materials.  Temporary lighting is moved often based on the needs of the project, which can wear through the cord and create electrical hazards.  By using nonconductive materials, we decrease the risk of the current conducting to and through the materials to which it is attached.


Don’t let your employees become victims of electrical hazards.  Many workers believe that they are working safely because they’ve never had an incident, mistaking luck for safety.  If you see these habits and don’t correct them immediately, you’re telling your workers that you approve of their unsafe habits.   Identify and correct unsafe habits before an employee is fatally injured; don’t let your inaction send the message that dangerous behaviors are acceptable.

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