Emergency response planning for electrical incidents

No matter how many procedures you write, policies you post on the bulletin board or training programs you send your workforce to, an effective electrical safety program is incomplete without a robust emergency response plan.

This concept isn’t any different than a rescue plan used for jobs when fall arrest is required. Before starting any job that requires the use of fall arrest equipment, you need to have already thought about and secured a plan to retrieve the fallen person in a timely fashion. Similarly, if an electrician is hooked on to a live conductor and cannot let go you need to have already planned how to get him off and probably get his heart started again.

How much time do I have?

We know that it only takes a small amount of current send the heart into ventricular fibrillation which can cause cardiac arrest. Normally a victim will collapse in seconds and it won’t be long until his breathing or pulse stops.

Statistically, you have three minutes to get the heart pumping again, and that’s only a 70% chance of survival. Outside of ten minutes, it’s next to impossible.

So, think about that… let’s say Jenny decides to go check a motor amperage and accidentally contacts an exposed conductor inside a starter panel. This was a routine task so she went alone. How long is it before you realize that Jenny should be back by now? Probably more than three minutes.

So, what do we do?

Make a plan for emergency response that includes these components:

Electrical safety person who knows CPR

This could be another electrician, a supervisor or a designated electrical safety person, doesn’t matter. The important thing is that when your electricians are exposed to energized conductors there should be someone else there who can help in case of emergency.

Electrical emergency tools & equipment

There might be a better name for them but everyone can picture a shepherd’s hook. This is a long, non-conductive rod with a hook on the end that you can safely use to remove a victim from energized conductors.

Another important piece of rescue equipment is a defibrillator. These are designed to counter the effects of electric shock on the heart. Depending on the size of your facility these should be strategically placed so that you have easy access and can get to it very quickly. The best option is to have the defibrillator on hand while the energized work is being performed.

Know where the disconnect is

Imagine someone was getting a shock from rewiring a light fixture in your home. What’s the fastest and safest way to remove them from the hazard?... The light switch. Seems simple, but the truth is you probably know where every light switch in your house is and it’s the quickest way to remove the hazard. Same thing goes for an industrial facility. Before the job starts, make sure you know where the disconnect is located.

Communication

First aid is your primary focus because you probably won’t have the luxury of time to call for help. However, the next step is to get the victim to the hospital or bring in medical professionals.

Make sure you have identified where the closest phone is and what number you are going to call. Once the call is made be sure you know your exact work location so the responders can get to you quickly. Often, paramedics will meet you at the gatehouse of an industrial facility and it is up to your on-site emergency response team to get the patient to them.

Conclusion

As you can see there are several things you need to think about, with regards to emergency response, before starting any electrical work. Make sure you’ve got your bases covered and a plan in place to deal with emergencies. If something happens you will not have time to figure out what to do on the spot.

I hope you found this article useful and if you did please share it using the social media buttons at the bottom of the post! Also if you would like some help with your electrical safety program, feel free to contact me anytime.