National Safety Council designates May as National Electric Safety Month

  • Published
  • By Richard Fleming
  • AEDC Safety

The National Safety Council partners with the Electric Safety Foundation, or ESFI, each May to present electric hazard awareness topics.

The ESFI is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting electrical safety at home and in the workplace. Their goal is to reduce the number of electric-related fires, fatalities, injuries and property losses.

One focus of the 2024 campaign is on lithium-ion batteries and how to use and recycle them safely. Lithium-ion, or Li-ion, batteries are used to power commonly used devices like cell phones, tablets, laptops, electric scooters and bikes, toothbrushes, and even to store power in energy storage systems. In normal applications, the Li-ion batteries are safe but, if damaged or overheated, they can cause fires.

Here are a few safety tips for lithium-ion batteries:

  • Only use manufacturer-provided or authorized batteries and charging equipment. All equipment should be certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.
  • Remove the battery or charging device from power once charging is complete to avoid overheating.
  • Store and charge batteries room temperature. Issue can occur below 32 degrees Fahrenheit or above 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Keep batteries and devices from heat sources or anything that can catch fire.
  • Do not store batteries in vehicles or direct sunlight.
  • All maintenance on batteries or e-mobility devices should be completed by a qualified professional.

Discontinue using devices or batteries that have an unusual odor, change in color, too much heat, change in shape or are leaking, smoking or not keep a charge.

Another focus for the ESFI is unintentional contact with electricity, which continues to be one of the top five leading causes of workplace fatalities and injuries in the United States. Between 2011 and 2021, there were a total of 19,900 injuries and 1,201 workplace fatalities involving electricity according to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Most of those electricity-related fatalities – 68% - happened in non-electricity-related occupations.

Here are a few tips to help avoid electrical injury:

Overhead Power Line Contact

  • 46% of all electrical fatalities are caused by contact with overhead power lines.
  • 57% of overhead power line fatalities were in non-electrical occupations.
  • Always assume all lines are live and dangerous.
  • Always look up; be aware of overhead power lines.
  • Keep yourself and your equipment at least 10 feet away from overhead power lines.
  • Do not touch anything that is in contact with overhead power lines.
  • Carry equipment, including ladders, horizontally to avoid contact with power lines.
  • Stay at least 35 feet away from downed lines.

Electrical Safety in the Workplace

  • Know when to say “when.” If you feel unsafe performing a job, say something.
  • Be aware of potential electrical hazards in the workplace. If you have not been trained, avoid electrical rooms and other potentially hazardous areas.
  • All electrical work should only be completed by qualified workers with proper training.
  • Ground fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, protection should be installed where electricity and water may come in contact.
  • Five sources accounted for 92% of all electrical fatalities:
  • Overhead power lines
  • Unexpected contact with electricity
  • Working on energized parts
  • Ground faults
  • Damaged wiring

Accidental Contact with Energized Conductors or Parts

  • 45% of all electrical fatalities were caused by working on or near energized conductors or parts.
  • 74% of these fatalities were in electrical occupations.
  • Always test for voltage before you perform work. Be sure to also test the area around the equipment you are working on to avoid accidental contact with energized equipment.
  • Always perform a site and risk assessment before conducting work. Hazards exist on and near the equipment you are working on.
  • When possible, turn off the power before conducting work.
  • Follow proper lockout/tagout procedures.
  • Avoid complacency. Every job is different—make sure you follow the hierarchy of controls and other electrical safety work practices on every job.

We are so used to using electricity in our daily lives that we can forget the dangers that come with it. My father-in-law was a certified union electrician with more than 35 years of experience doing everything from wiring a new house to supplying power to a $3 million manufacturing machine in a factory. He told the story that the only time he got into trouble was when he was plugging an extension cord into a portable light. As he plugged the light into the extension cord, the electrical current “grabbed him” and would not let go. Luckily, his coworker knocked the cord out of his hands with a broom or he would have been in real trouble. He used that example as a teaching moment for me that I will share with you: “Always check for damage on all equipment before you use it and always plug into the power supply last.”

Take care of each other.