This article shares knowledge and education from Simutech’s Troubleshooting Electrical Skills course and discusses safety in electrical troubleshooting, particularly in regard to the shock hazard.

Electrical Troubleshooting Safely and the Shock Hazard

  • Electrical troubleshooting can be hazardous. Every year electrical work-related accidents cause hundreds of fatalities and thousands of serious injuries.
  • You will develop a safe and responsible approach by learning about the dangers involved with electrical troubleshooting, including the two main safety hazards, shocks and arc flash, as well as the best ways to avoid them.

Shock Hazard

Troubleshooting can introduce new safety concerns, especially when inspecting equipment that is energized. Testing often requires the troubleshooter to temporarily connect test instruments to live terminals which may involve opening locked or bolted closed to protect workers.

If you were to contact live equipment with your body, or a tool you are holding, the current that would flow through your body and could cause severe injury, burns and even death.

What Causes Shocks

Shocks occur when your body becomes part of the circuit.

Electricity travels in closed circuits, normally through a conductor. But if a person’s body—an efficient conductor of electricity—mistakenly becomes part of the electric circuit an electrical shock can occur.

When a person receives a shock, electricity flows between parts of the body or through the body to a ground or the earth.

Shock hazard

Electricity’s Effect on the Body

An electric shock can result in anything from a slight tingling sensation to immediate cardiac arrest. The severity depends on the following:

  • The amount of current flowing through the body.
  • The current’s path through the body.
  • The length of time the body remains in the circuit.

Physiological effects

Protecting Against Shock Hazards

Electrical equipment is generally designed to minimize electrical hazards. This is normally done through:

  • The use of guards and barriers,
  • Grounding of equipment cases,
  • Use of proper insulation, and
  • Installation of protective electrical devices.

That being said, these hazards can’t be completely eliminated. You may have to open an enclosure, replace equipment, or even perform tests on live equipment.

In order to protect you from these hazards, many regulations have been developed that include safe work practices for working on electrical equipment.

One such practice is called the ‘lockout/tagout’. This is used to ensure that the machine or equipment is stopped, isolated from all potentially hazardous energy sources and locked out before work can begin. Read more about the lockout/tagout.

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