2013 National Electrical Safety Month: Safety for All Ages

May 28, 2013

Story Highlights

  • May is National Electrical Safety Month and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory is stressing the importance of electrical safety awareness and best practices both at home and in the workplace.
  • According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, workplace electrical incidents result in more than 300 deaths and 3,500 injuries every year in the United States.
  • According to Nancy Vyas, safety engineer and electrical safety officer, as a result of workplace injuries and death due to incidents involving electricity, ARL has developed numerous tools to help prevent hazardous electrical situations due in great part to the efforts of ARL researchers including Damien Urciuoli, Don Porschet, and Tim Burcham.

May is National Electrical Safety Month and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory is stressing the importance of electrical safety awareness and best practices both at home and in the workplace.

According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, workplace electrical incidents result in more than 300 deaths and 3,500 injuries every year in the United States.

"Nearly every aspect of research at Aberdeen Proving Ground involves electricity to some extent," said Robb Altenburg, an occupational safety and health officer at Aberdeen Proving Ground. "It spans the entire spectrum, from the use of plug and cord equipment to obtain data, to complex electrical systems used in weaponry and threat defeat."

Altenburg said that the challenge lies in interpreting and applying the litany of codes, standards and regulations that govern the work being performed all the while helping the researchers accomplish their objectives.

According to Felicia Chamberlin, White Sands Missile Range safety and occupational health officer, her job as a safety specialist is to ensure a safe and healthy working environment for all employees.

Chamberlin said that a major part in doing so is for employees to provide prior notification to customers of the safety requirements necessary for equipment or systems used in research and development areas or in the laboratory.

In addition, she noted that ARL needs to increase the number and training of Subject Matter Experts, or SMEs, to improve overall as an organization when it comes to electrical safety.

"It is essential for employees to receive CPR/AED training in case of medial emergencies related to electrical hazards, and prior to employee use of electrical portable tools, they should inspect for cuts, frays, spliced or broken cords, cracked or broken attachment plugs and missing or deformed grounding prongs," said Chamberlin.

If any of these hazards are evident, employees should immediately discontinue use and report tools that shock or trip ground-fault circuit interrupter devices.

According to Nancy Vyas, safety engineer and electrical safety officer, as a result of workplace injuries and death due to incidents involving electricity, ARL has developed numerous tools to help prevent hazardous electrical situations due in great part to the efforts of ARL researchers including Damien Urciuoli, Don Porschet, and Tim Burcham.

The tools developed include a telephone based application, E-Safe Basic, which is used to help Soldiers complete tasks such as change or charge battery systems, and most importantly, used to help their supervisors recognize tasks that are unsafe.

A laptop electrical hazard classification tool has also been developed, using the Department of Energy's hazard chart as the first step, then adding information about personal protective equipment, training, and state-of the- art arc flash calculations for work in an electrical box or on a range.

Troubled by the continuing electrocutions of Warfighters, whose man-pack radio antennas contacted low hanging overhead transmission lines, ARL developed the protocol for insulation that the Marines use today to protect themselves in theatre.

ARL has also championed inclusion of electrical safety for linemen in the Army's new Electrical Safety Program Handbook, and Vyas included requirements for safe equipment that has led to the establishment of an Authority Having Jurisdiction that requires and inspects code compliant installations in base camps as well as regular bases.

"ARL's product is not only research," said Vyas. "We also develop and export electrical safety tools and products to our colleagues around the nation and the world."

While electrical safety in the workplace is of utmost importance, employees must not forget about electrical safety in their own homes.

According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, electrical failures are the cause of 43,900 home fires each year, resulting in 438 deaths, 1,430 injuries, and $1.47 billion in property damage.

This year's campaign theme is "Electrical Safety for All Ages," and while electrical hazards threaten the public at large, our youngest and oldest populations are especially vulnerable.

Since 1999, an average of 496 children age 14 and under have died each year due to unintentional fires or burn-related injuries. For the older individuals age 65 and older, the risk of dying in a fire is 2.6 times greater than that of the general population.

The National Electrical Safety Month 2013 Electrical Safety Resources for Children provide information to encourage electrical safety practices among children and their families. To view these resources and more, please visit http://www.esfi.org/.

Also visit the Army safety page at https://safety.army.mil/ for further information on electrical safety.

For a closer look into electrical safety, view the following link containing the National Fire Protection Association's video regarding reducing workplace electrical hazards http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsBrQlBUo4w.

ARL Safety Office personnel serve as the focal point for all matters concerning risk management programs including industrial/laboratory safety, occupational health, radiation management, explosive safety, safety engineering, environmental protection, disaster preparedness and emergency response, and fire prevention and protection.

Visit the ARL Safety Home Page on ARLInside at https://arlinside.arl.army.mil/inside/labops/Safety/default.cfm and contact personnel with any of your safety questions and comments about what you would like to see in future publications when it comes to safety both at home and in the workplace.

 

Last Update / Reviewed: May 28, 2013