8 Electrical Safety Resolutions for 2020

Do you make work resolutions?

Some people challenge themselves by setting personal goals for the next 12 months.

In the spirit of starting a new year on the right foot, we’ve re-publishing a list of habits that you may want to adopt as your new year’s resolutions. These suggested electrical safety habits are not listed in order from least to most important, or in any other particular order. They are simply a list of some back-to-basics best practices that are taught in our electrical safety training classes.

1. I will test GFCIs per manufacturer’s instructions.

Yes, it really does say on the package, “Test Monthly.” Why do I need to do this? Because I don’t know when one may fail – and I don’t want to find out when it’s too late. This testing is still true for the newer “self-testing” GFCIs. These units have built-in circuitry that performs internal circuitry checks but cannot test the physical movement of the GFCI trip unit. This must be done by a manual push of the test and reset buttons. Go to this link for more information.

SIDE NOTE: GFCIs are required to be installed anywhere there may be contact with water, such as bathrooms, garages, kitchen countertops, unfinished basements, and at exterior outlets.  You can find specific requirements in the National Electrical Code by referring to Article 210.8 (2020 version). Of course, always refer to the code version that is legally adopted by your state, and do not forget specialty areas like drinking fountains, vending machines, aircraft hangers, and a host of other locations.

2. I will inspect power strips and extension cords for damage and replace any damaged cords.

Anywhere there are extension cords and heavy equipment in close proximity, there is a chance that the cords will become damaged due to contact. Even if a cord has been in the same place for years and has never caused a problem, I will not assume it is OK; I will inspect it anyway.

SIDE NOTE: OSHA does not recommend simply taping abrasions and cuts for this reason: Section 1926.403(a) requires that “all electrical conductors and equipment shall be approved.” As with any repair, items being repaired must be brought up to the item’s listing and labeling parameters. This is impossible to do with damaged extension cord insulation. The only true option is cord replacement once you find insulation damage. As stated in the following OSHA article, slight nicks or abrasions that do not damage the inside conductor insulation are not considered to be a “worn or frayed” condition.

Read OSHA’s Letter of Interpretation here.

For extra reading, see a couple of our blogs on extension cords.

What Does OSHA Say About Plugging Extension Cords Together?

Electrical Safety: 4 Common Mistakes Using Extension Cords

3. Even when I am certain that the mains are shut off, I will use my electrical gloves to test before touching.

In our electrical safety training, we can never stress enough the importance of this advice. Commit to performing live-dead-live checks on any electrical circuit you work on prior to touching wiring or components. A live-dead-live check consists of verifying your electrical meter works on a known live circuit, testing the de-energized circuit to verify zero energy state, and re-checking your meter again on a known live circuit.

See our video, “Brian’s Story”. He tells it like it is from first-hand experience.

4. I will exhaust all avenues before attempting to work live or “HOT”.

Working a circuit energized is in most cases not required. We in the industry simply must get away from any hint of “bragging rights” about working on an energized circuit. If at all possible in my work situation, I will de-energize the circuit, verify it dead, and lock it out.

5. I will not rush the process of creating an electrical safe work condition.

No amount of pressure from a supervisor, a customer, or a family member to get the job done quickly, before I feel that the job is safe, is worth my life. I must keep my priorities in check. Too many injuries and fatalities have already occurred in exact situations like these. I do not need to become a statistic.

6. I will maintain my equipment.

If I am uncertain how to do this, I will ask the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) what is required. Just because my plant is a year old doesn’t mean that maintenance is not required.

With a little research, information on required maintenance can be acquired and adopted in to the electrical maintenance program. In the rare cases where this information is not available, resources like NFPA 70B and NETA/MTS 2019 can be used to set up a good maintenance program.

7. I will check my workplace for scene-safety.

I will check for job-site scene safety, looking in all directions for otherwise unseen hazards.

Just like an emergency responder is taught to do on a vehicle accident scene, electrical personnel should follow the same thought process in identifying all site hazards prior to approaching the work area.

8. I resolve to further my knowledge on electrical safety.

My employer has the responsibility of providing PPE and training. My responsibility is to use those resources in keeping myself safe and encouraging co-workers to do the same. I commit this year to becoming a life-time student of electrical safety.

Shameless plug for ESW: Join us and other safety-minded professionals in Tucson for the 2021 Electrical Safety Workshop!

Check the IEEE ESW page for general info and registration.

Resolutions as a refresher

We can all use reminders to continue applying good safety habits or to begin doing them, whether we are at work or at home. The important thing is to DO them.

Here’s to a great year!

Ken Sellars

Ken Sellars

Ken Sellars is an instructor of electrical safety, NEC, Grounding/Bonding and Arc Flash Safety courses nationwide. Read more about Ken.

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