Summer Safety Awareness: Heat stress + electrical safety
by: Josh Carney, President of Integral Power Technologies LLC
With the onset of warm weather and often high humidity comes the danger of heat stress for workers in non-climate-controlled environments. Combining that with the long sleeves, pants and, F.R. (fire resistant) clothing many are required to wear in their company’s safety program, managing the Summer’s sultry workdays can put considerable physical stress on the worker's body.
To this end, industrial plant electricians and technicians also face an increased risk of electrical injury or death brought on by the summer sweat.
Firstly, to be specific, there exists in the United States of America and internationally some very well-defined and effective practices for safely working with and around electrical equipment. Lockout-Tagout procedures, guarding, barriers, electrically insulated tools and touch-safe components are all intended to keep the worker safe. However, loose adherence to procedure and selective application of safety equipment can be more hazardous at certain times of the year than others.
Here I draw your attention to the mode of electrical injury: conduction of electrical current through the body. Excepting cuts and openings in the body, the typical path for electrical current between two potentials starts at the skin and ends at the skin. The resistance of the body where it contacts an energized conductor primarily affects how much current will flow through the body at a given voltage. Perspiration lowers the skins electrical resistance and increases the amount of current which will flow through the body. A light shock or "jolt" in the Winter season may be a fatality in the Summer.
Worker safety is essential, and along with heat stress awareness, it would be a good idea to emphasize the importance of safe electrical practices. Lock it out, verify it and work safely. When live work is necessary for troubleshooting, then don the appropriate arc-rated gear and go home alive.
For further learning about electrical current and the body, I would recommend reading:
“Conduction of Electrical Current to and Through the Human Body: A Review”
by: Raymond M. Fish, Ph.D., MD, FACEP and Leslie A. Geddes, MS, Ph.D., DSC
Which is at this link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2763825/
Thanks for reading and Happy Summer