While it’s true that high-voltage electricity has more significant potential for damage, low-voltage electricity can also cause substantial damage or injury. Considering low-voltage electrical systems are used in most residential and commercial buildings, paying close attention to low-voltage safety instructions is essential. Keep reading for some low-voltage electricity safety tips and learn more about specific hazards when working with low-voltage electricity.
Dangers of Low Voltage Electricity
As the dangers of high-voltage electricity may seem obvious, it can be easy to forget those involved when working with low-voltage electricity. Still, the risks of low-voltage electricity are real and require significant caution to avoid. The tendency for contractors to downplay low-voltage electricity’s danger, compared with high-voltage electricity, can result in increased low-voltage accidents.
While low-voltage electricity currents around 100 volts will likely cause muscle contractions than significant injury, voltages of 500 or more will cause deep burns. Low-voltage currents through the heart can also cause a heart attack or arrhythmia. Thus, low-voltage currents still pose a significant threat to your safety.
Another hazard with low-voltage electricity is small-working clearances. As most low-voltage areas have small clearances, they leave little margin of error for electricians. If the low-voltage equipment is sourced with a powerful energy supply, the cause with many industrial worksites, a fault current can release vast amounts of energy in a confined space. Such energy release can:
Throw workers across a room.
Cause arc-flash burns.
Hurl objects and metal pieces onto nearby workers.
Safety Tips for Low Voltage Electricity
Considering the dangers of working with low-voltage electricity, below are some helpful low-voltage safety tips to keep in mind to prevent injury and damage. Some of these safety tips are unique to low voltage electricity, while others are more general safety instructions for working with any kind of electricity.
1. Plan and Prepare
Two essential low voltage safety tips are taking time to plan and prepare your team and work area before beginning a project:
Plan before you work: Always make a plan for each task. Assess all the potential risks associated with a particular task. As you map out the whole job out in advance, plan what you’ll do if an accident occurs. Safety meetings are also beneficial for everyone involved. They provide an opportunity to discuss each task with all workers before proceeding with the job.
Know the equipment: Every worker using a piece of equipment or system should have inside-out knowledge of how it works. Such knowledge should include block schemes, single line diagrams, technical specifications, wiring diagrams and more. Ensure accurate and current information on each piece of equipment and system is available for your workers to refer to.
Remove metal items: Metal appliances or jewelry may cause a short-circuit in small clearances. Since low-voltage work often involves small clearances, removing such items from your person before working is essential. You can also secure them to your body using transparent surgical tape or a similar material.
2. Minimize Risks
These low voltage safety instructions will guide you through minimizing risks to promote a safer work environment:
Limit and cover the exposure: Expose live parts as little as necessary while still taking the time to do a safe and proper job. Use insulating barriers or shields to cover live parts, such as plexiglass plates. Cover grounded metal parts with as much insulating material as possible.
Limit the energy and current: Keep the available fault current at the point of work as low as possible while working on a piece of equipment. You can also use a current-limiting device to reduce arc flash risks. Set the load side of the current-protective device to the lowest current rating. Doing so will minimize the power of any fault current that occurs.
Avoid cutting corners to finish the job quicker: You may feel tempted to cut corners if you’re pressed for time or want to hurry a job for another reason. Yet, even the most minor mistakes can spell danger for electrical workers and anyone nearby. Focus on doing a job well rather than doing it fast in every situation. The outcomes will improve in measurable ways when you always do a job right the first time.
Use lockout/tag-out procedures: A lockout and tag-out procedure is one of the most effective ways to increase safety while working with low-voltage electricity. They help prevent unexpected energy releases. A proper lockout and tag-out procedure ensures no one turns on equipment while someone is working on it. With a lockout and tag-out procedure, workers apply locks to electrical disconnect switches before working on the equipment and after deactivating the energy-isolating device. In this way, lockout and tag-out procedures reduce arc flash and short circuit risks.
3. Take Protective Measures
Take the following protective measures for all workers:
Protect yourself when operating a safety switch: Use one hand when operating a safety switch and turn your face and body to the side. By doing so, you’ll avoid placing body parts in front of energized equipment, protecting you in case of an arc flash.
Use correct personal protective equipment (PPE): Employers are responsible for assessing workplace hazards. They’re also required to determine the PPE needed to prevent those hazards, according to OSHA specifications in 29 CFR 1910. You can find the relevant PPE for electrical work through the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Besides PPE, you should also ensure tools and equipment are updated and adhere to current standards.
Keep up on best practices and safety: Electrical work and technology constantly evolve like any trade or industry. Staying up to date on the latest electrical practices and safety guidance increases efficiency with reduced hazards and risks. Electrical companies should provide opportunities for workers to update their knowledge of industry best practices and safety recommendations regularly.
Speak up when something isn’t right: You may be new to electrical work or an experienced electrician. Either way, voice your concerns when a situation feels unsafe or obvious hazards go unchecked. While addressing hazards may delay work, it will produce superior outcomes for you and your customers.
Don’t forget the obvious, non-electrical hazards. These may include slips, falls, burns or even asphyxiation in confined spaces. Keep a tidy work area to avoid such hazards.
Receive Expert Electrical Training From IEC Technicians
Bolster these low-voltage electricity safety tips with expert electrical safety training from Industrial Electrical Company (IEC) technicians! We’re happy to provide industry-standard safety training alongside our diverse array of electrical products to customers throughout central California and western Nevada. Contact us for more information on our electrical safety training and equipment.
Get in Touch With Our Experts
Our motor shop is located right in the Central Valley and can complete any job from total welding services to custom modifications. To learn more about our services, classes and products, contact us online today.