Common Electrical Hazards in the Workplace To Avoid

A man holding an electrical wire with smoke coming out of it.

If you work in an environment where employees are required to operate electrical equipment in any capacity, then you are at risk for potential electrical hazards in the workplace. As such, maintaining proper electrical safety standards should be your top priority.

With the risk of electrical fires, serious electrical injuries, and even fatal electrocution being present, these warnings are certainly not to be taken lightly.

Knowing which improper methods of handling electrical equipment in the workplace can lead to serious injuries like electric shock and identifying electrical hazards is a lot easier than you may think. Keep a short list of common electrical hazards in mind and be vigilant to prevent them from causing harm to you or your fellow employees.

To learn how to protect your safety and the safety of others in the working environment, familiarize yourself with the list below and read all about these common hazards in the workplace that result from misusing power equipment.

If you need some employee electrical safety training, we have you covered there, too.

What Are the 8 Most Common Electrical Hazards at Work?

Electrical hazards can be present when workers use power equipment, especially if they haven’t been properly trained. But certain types of these hazards are present far more often in a wide variety of working environments, and so they should be taken especially seriously.

Familiarizing yourself and your fellow employees with the following hazards and ways to avoid them can greatly improve the overall level of safety in the workplace.

A man in a hard hat is holding a clipboard in front of an electrical box.

1. Circuit Breaker Malfunction

It’s important always to handle circuit breakers carefully to avoid a fire hazard. Be sure to only ever use the correct wire suitable for a given circuit breaker with respect to its electrical load.

This rule applies to extension cords as well. Using the correct extension cord designed for your circuit breaker can help avoid overloaded circuits, reducing the risk of fire and serious injury.

Make sure to inspect breakers regularly and correct any bad wiring or improper cord usage immediately.

2. Damaged Electrical Equipment

In order to work safely, workers should only use electrical equipment that is in pristine condition. Working with faulty electrical equipment can present serious risks to your safety, including electric shock as well as serious burns.

Regular inspections of all electrical equipment should be performed to ensure that everything is working properly. Any damaged electrical tools should be removed from the workspace immediately and repaired by a qualified electrician.

Do not attempt to repair faulty equipment without the proper training and experience, as this can be very dangerous.

A person is working on an electrical outlet, that has a grounding rod going into the ground.

3. Unsafe Grounding Practices

Improper grounding is a common OSHA electrical violation when it comes to mishandling equipment. Grounding is an important safety precaution used to eliminate unwanted voltage, and improper grounding can easily result in an electrocution hazard.

The metallic ground pin is crucial here, as it takes care of returning unwanted voltage to the earth. With this channel from the electricity source to the ground missing, the unwanted voltage will not be safely redirected and can seriously injure someone.

Never work with electricity without proper grounding. Also, ensure your employees understand the function and use of GFCI in electrical work.

Overhead power lines in a field

4. Overhead Power Lines

Power lines carry serious charges and can easily cause serious burns and severe harm if contacted. For this reason, several specific precautions need to be taken when working with or near overhead power lines.

Nothing should ever be stored underneath energized electrical lines. Additionally, anyone in the area must physically avoid close contact with overhead power lines as well as any nearby equipment, keeping a minimum distance of ten feet away.

Suppose work is being done on or near overhead power lines. In that case, warning signs and barriers need to be erected to caution others in the area who are not overhead line workers, such as contractors on the job site and even neighboring office workers.

5. Excess Moisture

Moisture in the presence of powered equipment increases the risk of electrical shock significantly, so electrical work should never be performed in wet locations. This electrical hazard becomes even worse if the tool being used has damaged insulation.

If any power tools come into contact with water, do not use them again until they have been thoroughly inspected by a qualified person and declared safe. Additionally, if a worksite is suddenly exposed to excess water, immediately cease work and unplug appliances.

6. Improper Wiring and Cord Management

Inadequate wiring obviously presents an electrical hazard, as the tools that channel electricity need to be working properly to guarantee safety. However, this also applies to the use of electrical cords.

Always use electrical cables as intended, and never pair power cords with incompatible machinery. It might seem like these flexible cords can be bent and twisted to your will, but they need to be respected to preserve the safety of everyone present.

Never “daisy chain” extension cords together, and refrain from overloading surge strips, as these practices also present serious hazards.

Two men working on an electrical panel.

7. Poor Insulation

Insulation is crucial for protecting workers from direct contact with electricity, so inadequate insulation presents a serious risk. If damaged insulation is noticed, have a qualified person repair it immediately, turning off the power supply first.

Do not try to repair damaged insulation using electrical tape, as this can also be dangerous, especially if the electrical supply is left on. Maintaining healthy insulation is the best way to prevent electrical hazards.

8. Exposed Electrical Components

Exposed electrical parts present significant electrical hazards that can cause major burns and other injuries. These can take many forms, including detached insulation parts on various cables, open power distribution units, and any place where electric components are not guarded, such as exposed wires from temporary lighting fixtures.

It is essential that exposed electrical parts be covered with the proper guarding mechanisms immediately to reduce the risk of harm. Worksites should be inspected regularly for this problem.

A man is putting wires into an electrical box.

What Are the 5 Golden Rules for Electrical Safety?

Beyond just knowing what the most frequent electrical hazards are and how to avoid them, certain routine safety barriers must be in place in the workplace for the well-being of everyone present.

Luckily, these are very simple to understand and easy to stay on top of, so keeping your working environment safe from electrical hazards should be a breeze.

1. Get Regular Inspections

Having your worksite inspected for safety by a third party regularly is the best way to ensure that the risks are minimized. A qualified professional can point out any problem areas you may have overlooked and make suggestions to bring everything back up to code.

2. Be Proactive with Maintenance

Don’t let your tools or the power system in your workplace be neglected for too long, or they can fall into a state of disrepair that is difficult to fix. By performing ongoing maintenance, you can easily keep everything working in good condition.

3. Use Electrical Cords Properly

Never overload a circuit with too many power cords or use the wrong cords for any machine. Avoid daisy-chaining multiple cords together, and always follow the instructions for any given fixture before getting creative with cables, plugs, and circuits.

4. Use Adequate Insulation

Insulation is one of the most important parts of any power apparatus and must not be neglected. Always be vigilant for insulation that needs repairs. To avoid injury, never use any power equipment that doesn’t have sufficient insulation.

5. Replace Damaged Equipment Immediately

If any power tools are broken or malfunctioning, do not continue to use them. Remove them from the work area and have them replaced or repaired by a seasoned professional as soon as possible.

A man holding an electrical wire with smoke coming out of it.

What Is the OSHA Standard for Electrical Safety?

If you’d like further concrete guidelines for workplace safety, be sure to consult the OSHA standards. These guidelines clarify what is necessary to maintain a safe working environment.

At the very least, always use personal protective equipment for electrical installation and other hazardous tasks.

Take Charge of Electrical Safety in Your Workplace Today

Using electrical equipment in the working environment comes with serious risks, so anyone working with power tools, wiring, and other electrical systems should prioritize safety.

By identifying the most frequently occurring electrical hazards present in the workplace and implementing a few simple best practices to avoid injury, you can help make your job site a safer place for everyone. Finally, teaching your employees how to spot electrical hazards at work and then avoid those hazards is key to the safety of workers and the business at large.