Construction workers are exposed to a number of risks and hazards at their workplace, including electricity-related hazards. Regular inspection should always be conducted daily, and before the work begins each day. This is because of the constantly changing nature and conditions at a construction site and the high damage potential of electrical hazards, where everything has the potential to happen on a much bigger scale.
There are a few things one can do to help ensure electrical safety at a construction site, including:
- Carry out periodic risk assessments
A risk assessment should be conducted on a construction site before any work even begins. And as work progresses, risk assessments should also be conducted periodically to ensure that more recent changes have not created any unwanted electrical hazards. This is important because of the fluid and constantly changing environment at a construction site.
- That electrical extension cords do not become damaged or are replaced if they become damaged.
Extension cords are often found on construction sites to provide power to areas which do not yet have provisions for electrical power. But because of the rough conditions present at a construction site, these extension cords often become damaged. Periodic inspection should be conducted to check that the extension cords being used are continuous and unbroken, that they are protected from damage, especially if they are being coursed through windows or doorways, and that the end appliances are gripped to insulation. All extension cords being used should be three-wire cords, the ground pin should be a male plug, and that the cords are not stapled or hung from nails.
- All exposed electric equipment of more than 50 volts should be guarded
These can include bare wires, switches, receptacles, and light sockets. To guard them properly, you can use approved enclosures such as partitions or screens where access is only given to qualified individuals. Or they should be located in areas not accessible to the general public, such as in restricted-access rooms, or on an elevated platform that cannot be readily accessed by everybody.
- Provide the workers with the appropriate information, training, and instruction to be able to recognize electrical hazards, and what to do to minimize or eliminate any electrical risks they may come across
A good part of promoting electrical safety at construction sites is information-dissemination. This is important because not all workers at a construction site are electricians, and not everyone will have sufficient knowledge of electrical systems, how to recognize electrical hazards, and what to do in case they do come across electrical issues. They should, therefore, be armed with the proper information, knowledge, and training to minimize danger, be equipped with proper safety equipment and have on-hand onsite fire extinguishers if there should be any accidents. You should identify electrical hazards for your workers, train them on what to do in case there is an accident like an electrical shock or electric fires, or if they find damaged wiring or electrical equipment.
- Other things to watch out for:
- Making sure that machines will not automatically restart upon power restoration
- That the power tools being used are double-insulated or have a ground pin
- That temporary lights are not supported by cords, and that bulb guards are used on temporary lights
- Make sure that overhead power lines comply with code requirements, such as regulations on sufficient elevation and height, and that no machinery or vehicle comes too close to them
- Digging activities should always be done carefully, and with full provision to locate and avoid any underground power cables. Power should always be shut off to these underground power cables before excavation activities can be carried out
- When not in use, electrical equipment should be turned off. They should also be periodically examined for possible damages, and should not be used in case there is damage
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