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Electrical Safety-an issue of education

Working in our industry, it is just about impossible to avoid hazardous situations when it comes to electricity. I can remember an incident when I was

Electrical Safety-an issue of education

Apr 1, 1998 12:00 PM,
Nathaniel Hecht

Working in our industry, it is just about impossible to avoid hazardoussituations when it comes to electricity. I can remember an incident when Iwas about 12 years old where I sustained such a good jolt that my arm wasthrown back uncontrollably into a 20 x 40 (51 mm x 102 mm) board. Luckily,it didn’t cause any permanent damage, but I have a friend, a painter inEngland, who wasn’t as lucky. While painting a ceiling in a very old flat,he mistakenly painted over an exposed live wire while standing on a metalladder. He died as a result of the electrocution. The fact that they use220 V in England didn’t help. We may have a slightly better chance here inthe United States with 110 V service, but it doesn’t take much of a jolt tokill you.

I was fortunate concerning the use of electricity in that my father was anelectronics hobbyist and schooled me in the ways of protecting myself, theaforementioned incident not withstanding. I learned about always wearingrubber-soled shoes while working with electricity and to put one hand on mywaist so as not to create a direct path across my heart while using anelectric tool. I also learned about proper grounding and the dangersinvolved in repairing high-voltage CRTs. Most kids do stupid things though,like the sixth grader I saw push a wire into an electrical socket.Fortunately, the wire was insulated, and only the breaker blew.

How many of you know that next month is Electrical Safety Month? If youthink this is an invisible problem, ponder some statistics: One person iselectrocuted in the home every 36 hours (Consumer Product Safety Commission(CPSC)). One person is electrocuted in the workplace every day(Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)). More than 700 livesare lost annually in an average of 155,000 electrical fires, which causeinjuries to an additional 6,800 people and personal property damage of $1.4billion each year (Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)). If we addthe millions of dollars in costs that result from these accidents due torelated litigation, the huge scope of the problem comes into much clearerfocus. There is also the toll in quality of life and loss of productivity.

What can you do? You can educate yourselves and those you work with aboutthe real dangers inherent in working with electricity. In 1994, theNational Electrical Safety Foundation (NESF) was formed to bring relatedindustries together to illuminate the problem. It is a publicly organized,tax-exempt charitable organization supported by contributions, mostly frommanufacturers, distributors, utilities, insurance companies and otherrelated industries. Its goal is to make an impact in proactively promotingelectrical safety in the home, school and workplace. In addition tosupplying information to Fortune 500 companies, they distribute ninebimonthly columns on electrical safety tips to over 10,000 newspapers inthe United States and Canada. The NESF can be reached through their Website at If you would rather give them a call, they can bereached at 703-841-3211 or by fax at 703-841-3311. Incidentally, theyaccept donations from contractors as well, so if any of their informationis useful to you and your organization, consider becoming an annual sponsorof the foundation. Membership is a great way to reach out to yourcommunity, which is always good business.

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