Did you know that the voltage and available electrical current in a regular home or business has enough power to cause death by electrocution?
The truth is, all electrical systems have the potential to cause harm. Your body is a natural conductor of electricity, and is vulnerable to electrical shocks and burns—including thermal burns that affect both the external skin and internal tissues—and arc blasts that can cause your lungs to collapse, or muscles to contract, causing a serious fall.
Direct contact with energized conductors or circuit parts can interfere with the brain, make it difficult to breath, or even stop your heart.
Working with electricity is serious business!
If you’re taking electrician training, or about to begin an apprenticeship, these are 8 essential safety measures to know and respect.
1. Don’t touch someone who’s been electrocuted!
It’s natural to want to reach out and assist a friend who has been shocked or burned by electricity. But remember: the body is a conductor. If you touch someone who is being electrocuted, the current will travel into your body, and you’ll both be in trouble.
The first thing you should do is turn off the main power source, and then call 911 for emergency assistance. If you know CPR, you can begin working on the individual while waiting for the ambulance.
Can’t turn off the power source? Push the person away from the contact with a non-conducting material—like wood or plastic.
2. Know your Electrical Code
If you take electrician training in Canada, you will definitely spend time learning about the Canadian Electrical Code (CEC). Its purpose is to protect electrical workers and make electrical installations and equipment safer.
Know the code, and stay on top of new rules and best practices for wiring, maintenance, and installation so you can stay safe on the job.
3. Always use GFCIs in damp or wet work areas
Risk of electric shock is higher when you work around water. Remember to install Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) before you begin work in a damp or wet area.
Make sure all tools and cords are grounded and/or plugged into a GFCI protected receptacle when used in wet conditions. GFCIs will interrupt the circuit before it can enter your body and do serious harm.
4. Inspect & maintain your electrical tools
You should always inspect your tools prior to use, and immediately stop using a tool as soon as it needs repair. Check your power tools for frayed cords, exposed wires, and missing or loose prongs.
Be wary of the insulation covering your extension cords, as it is especially vulnerable to damage.
Keep an eye out for cracks in the handles or body casings of your tools, damaged switches, and faulty trigger locks. Don’t make the mistake of using a damaged tool “just once more” before tagging it for repair.
Take it out of use immediately, tag it so no one else uses it, and invest in high-quality maintenance.
5. Follow proper lockout/tagout procedures
The very first thing you should do when beginning an inspection or repair job is turn off the current at the switch box, and padlock the switch in the off position. The same applies to any equipment or machines you may be servicing.
Lock out and tag training is a key part of any electrician program. It is essential for ensuring equipment is de-energized before repairs begin, thus minimizing opportunity for shock and electrocution.
Not sure if a piece of equipment is energized? Use a tester to check the wires, the outer metallic covering of the service panel, and any hanging wires before beginning your work.
6. Wear the right safety gear
Whether you’re just starting pre-apprenticeship electrician training, are an apprentice, or already have years of experience under your belt—you must always wear appropriate safety gear while working with electricity.
Standard personal protection equipment includes goggles, insulated gloves, sleeves, hoods, blankets, line hose, and non-conducting hard hats. Just like your tools, this gear should be inspected before each use—and discarded or sent for repair if not serviceable.
7. Choose the right ladder
Ladders are typically made of three materials: aluminum, wood, and fibreglass. The latter two options are best for electricians because they don’t conduct electricity.
Wood may rot over time, particularly when often exposed to damp or wet environments, making fibreglass a solid choice. Fibreglass ladders may be more expensive, but they have a long life—and may just save yours!
8. Avoid power lines
Power lines are often present around construction sites, and pose a serious threat to electricians and other tradespeople. In Ontario alone, power line contact has killed 24 people in the last 10 years. 70% of these accidents took place on construction sites. In many cases, a metal ladder was involved.
The line may look safe (no exposed or sparking wires), but the slightest touch can send thousands of volts of electricity through your body. Power line electrocution can cause fourth degree internal and external burns, make your heart stop, or require the amputation of a limb.
It’s very important to familiarize yourself with your local power line rules. The Ontario Health and Safety Act, for example, sets minimum distances you must maintain, depending on the voltage of the line.
And you should inquire about the location of power lines before digging—and must only use your hands to dig when within one metre of power lines.
Interested in learning more about the safety measures taught in electrician training? Looking for a reliable pre-apprenticeship electrician program in Ontario?
Consider the Construction & Maintenance Electrician Program offered at the Pre-apprenticeship Training (PAT) Institute.
Click below to explore the program, see a list of included electrician courses, or chat live with a friendly advisor. We’re here to help!
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