March 1, 2005 By Pulp & Paper Canada
Electrical hazards represent a serious, widespread occupational danger; practically all members of the workforce are exposed to electrical energy during the performance of their daily duties, and electrocutions occur to workers in various job categories. Many workers are unaware of the potential electrical hazards present in their work environment, which makes them more vulnerable to the danger of electrocution.
At least one of the following five factors was present in 224 pulp and paper specific accidents and incidents evaluated by NIOSH:
1 Established safe work procedures were either not implemented or not followed;
2 Adequate or required personal protective equipment was not provided or worn;
3 Lockout/tagout procedures were either not implemented or not followed;
4 Compliance with safety regulations were not implemented; and
5 Worker and supervisor training in electrical safety was not adequate.
Most of the 224 occupational electrocution incidents investigated could have been prevented through legislative compliance and/or the use of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). NIOSH concluded that all workers should receive hazard awareness training in identifying and assessing electrical hazards. Once these hazards are identified, employers should develop measures that would allow for their immediate control.
The data also revealed that although many companies had comprehensive safety programs, in many cases they were not completely implemented. This underscores the need for increased management and worker understanding, awareness, and ability to identify the hazards associated with working on, or in proximity to electrical energy. It is the responsibility of management to provide a safe workplace workers and to develop and implement a comprehensive safety program. In some cases this may entail the development of additional worker training, and/or the evaluation and restructuring of existing safety programs. Management should also provide adequate training in electrical safety for all workers and strictly enforce adherence to established safe work procedures and policies. Additionally, adequate personal protective equipment should be available where appropriate.
Information or assistance in accomplishing these measures can be provided by PPHSA. A strong commitment to safety by both management and workers is essential in the prevention of severe occupational injuries and death due to contact with electrical energy.
Cindy Hunter is the Program/ Communications Specialist, Pulp and Paper Health and Safety Association (PPHSA).
PPHSA is a recognized leader in occupational health and safety in the pulp and paper and related industries. Visit them at www.pphsa.on.ca/
First Aid Facts
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF A CO-WORKER IS SHOCKED OR BURNED BY ELECTRICITY?
SHUT OFF the electrical current if the victim is still in contact with the energized circuit. While you do this, have someone else call for help. If you cannot get to the switchgear quickly, pry the victim from the circuit with something that does not conduct electricity (such as dry wood). Do not touch the victim yourself if he or she is still in contact with an electrical circuit! You do not want to be a victim, too.
Do not leave the victim unless there is absolutely no other option. You should stay with the victim while Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is contacted. The caller should come back to you afterwards to verify the call was made. If the victim is not breathing, does not have a heartbeat, or is badly injured — quick response by a team of emergency medical technicians or paramedics gives the best chance for survival.
Once you know that electrical current is no longer flowing through the victim, call out to the victim to see if he or she is conscious. If the victim is conscious, tell the victim not to move. It is possible for a shock victim to be seriously injured but not realize it. Quickly examine the victim for signs of major bleeding. If there is a lot of bleeding, place a cloth (handkerchief or bandanna) over the wound and apply pressure. If the wound is in an arm or leg and keeps bleeding, gently elevate the injured area while keeping pressure on the wound. Keep the victim warm and talk to him or her until help arrives.
If the victim is unconscious, check of signs of breathing. While you do this, move the victim as little as possible. If the victim is not breathing, someone trained in CPR should begin artificial breathing, then check to see if the victim has a pulse. Quick action is essential. To be effective, CPR must be performed within four minutes of the shock.
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