Electricity Safety Hazards

Updated February 21, 2017

Safety hazards relating to the transmission of electricity can be either direct or indirect. Direct hazards are those faced by professionals working with power lines and electric circuitry. Indirect hazards are faced by people working and living in buildings that use electricity for everyday tasks.


Hazards faced by people working on or using electrical equipment can be loosely divided into four categories, which are electrocution, electric shock, burns and falls. Where the body of a person comes into contact with an electrical circuit, the individual can become part of the circuit and in extreme cases result in electrocution, which is the delivery of a fatal amount of electricity into the human body. Electrocution occurs when an electric shock interferes with the passage of messages from the brain to the muscles of the body. This can cause the muscles to spasm, the breathing and heart to stop. An electric shock occurs when a non-fatal amount of electricity passes through the human body. When electricity reacts with a gas an intense heat can be produced that results in burns to the body, or the production of an intense light with the power to blind a person. Falls can occur when an individual working on a raised platform, ladder or scaffold receives an electric shock and falls from the raised equipment.


Where technicians and electricians work directly with electrical power lines and electrical circuits hazards can include working too closely to energised overhead power lines. Workers should ensure they inspect the area for overhead power lines and signs of buried power lines. Where power lines are found, all workers should ensure they remain at least ten feet from the power lines and regard all lines as energised. In areas where work must be completed in close proximity to power lines, the lines should be de-energised and grounded before any maintenance or repair work is begun. All equipment used while working with electricity should be manufactured to standards produced by government agencies, such as the Occupational Safety & Health Administration in the U.S.


Safety hazards for people working indirectly with electricity include problems linked to general wear and tear of electrical circuits and equipment. Hazards can occur from the incorrect use of extension cords. These can often be overloaded and the wires become worn from use over a number of years. When removing a plug from a socket, you should pull the plug itself and not the cord attached to the plug. Pulling the cord can expose wires and make an electrically powered item unsafe.


The general hazards that can be checked for in an inspection before using electrical equipment include using power cords rated for the correct power size for each piece of electrical equipment. All electrical equipment should be inspected before use, with items that have exposed wiring removed from use and repaired before being used. Electrical systems can be fitted with ground fault circuit interrupters to halt the flow of electricity through a circuit before it becomes dangerous.

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About the Author

Paul Cartmell began his career as a writer for documentaries and fictional films in the United Kingdom in the mid-1990s. Working in documentary journalism, Cartmell wrote about a wide variety of subjects including racism in professional sports. Cartmell attended the University of Lincoln and London Metropolitan University, gaining degrees in journalism and film studies.