Stay Alert to Electrical Hazards
Many hazards that workers deal with are routine, everyday exposures. As a result of this routine, workers may become complacent around threats. Few things are more ubiquitous than electricity. Electricity usually only becomes a prime consideration when it is not where it is needed, but electrical safety should always be a priority.

While most workers respect transformers and equipment that require large amounts of electricity, they tend to show less caution around smaller electrical sources. Current as low as 8-10 milliamperes will not allow a person to let go of a wire with current running through it. Current that low can also cause cardiac arrest. Imagine the results from 20 or 30 amperes, the sizes of the smallest fuses or breakers commonly in use!

Most newer electrical installations use breakers, but older installations may still use fuses. Younger or less experienced workers may not be familiar with fuse box operation. Always use the proper-sized fuses or breakers in the boxes. Use of the proper size will prevent overheating of the wire from excess current. If a fuse is repeatedly blown, or a breaker is repeated tripped, find the cause. All panels should lock, and fuse boxes should be locked in the "off" position. This will prevent turning on the power while someone is working on equipment or wiring. Periodically check the panel and boxes for spider webs, mouse and insect nests, particularly the older installations that may not be sealed properly. Cleaning around the panels is also important to lessen fire risk and help keep panels cool.

All outlets should be the three prong grounded type. Many older outlets have only two slots, which will need an adapter for three prong cords. Also, if old enough, the slots can be the same size rather than one slot being longer. Replacing outlets that will not accept three prong

adapters provides the most safety and protection, and should be part of long term maintenance programs.

In areas that tend to remain wet, a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) is necessary. These devices can interrupt a power surge in as little as 25/1000 of a second. GFCI adapters to plug into three prong outlets are available to provide protection at the outlet. GFCI breakers are also available to protect the entire circuit

Many times an extension cord that is being used "temporarily" can become "permanent". If a piece of equipment is going to stay in one place for any length of time, it should have a properly grounded outlet. Extension cords can be damaged by sunlight, from being walked on, and by heavy items being dropped on them.

Another common misuse of an extension cord occurs when it does not contain wire large enough for the tool being used. Even if used only for a short period of time, a wire used with a tool that is too large for its capacity could cause heat to build up and damage the insulation on the wires. This damage could remain unseen for a long time, giving rise to a potentially
hazardous situation.

Make sure outside electric lines are high enough to allow machinery to pass safely underneath. This is especially true around grain bins where grain augers are being used. The number one electrical hazard on a farm is the potential contact from a grain auger.

Periodically check the grounding rods and wires around buildings and power poles. These rods and wires can become damaged and broken. If damaged, the overall system will not provide adequate grounding protection. Since electricity follows the easiest path to ground, these grounding rods and wires are the major source of providing that easy path.

Electricity is the most common utility on farms and jobsites, but don’t let its familiarity lull you into a false sense of security.

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