There are many myths regarding electrical safety around, most of which develop from peoples interpretations drifting away from the original intent. In the electrical industry, it’s extremely important to dispel these myths to keep everybody safe and prevent accidents. This industry can be extremely dangerous if electrical safety is not taken seriously.
Low voltage = low harm
Whilst this theory may sound logical, it isn’t true. Of course, voltage is important when it comes to electrical safety, but it is simply what pushes the current along, meaning the current is ultimately the main factor for determining how dangerous an electrical threat is. Even low voltages can cause a disaster if the current is strong enough. There is however a higher risk with high voltage electricals as these cause the current to move through faster than low voltage would.
Wearing more PPE results in more protection
Being protected isn’t directly to do with the amount of PPE worn, wearing the correct PPE for the job at hand is what will protect electricians – having the suitable protective equipment on can be the difference between surviving or not. It’s important for those working within the industry to take note of the detailed PPE requirements discussed in the European Standard EN 50110 “Operation of electrical installations” – this defines electrical safety in the workplace. Wearing more PPE than is required will not necessarily make anybody safer and could even create more risk. For example, if you wear class 0 gloves you will be protected up to 1,000 volts, some electricians often wear leather gauntlets over the top for mechanical protection. Whilst this can protect you, it can make a job very difficult to do as wearing both limits how much your fingers can move.
‘Inconvenient’ is the same as ‘infeasible’ when de-energising equipment
Suddenly cutting power is never convenient, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it is infeasible. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) authorises working on live circuits under certain conditions only, including when shutting down power is infeasible. Some people within the industry have gotten into the habit of working on live circuits just because it is inconvenient to shut them down. Working on live circuits simply because it is inconvenient brings a lot of unnecessary risks and could lead to dangerous accidents. When it is infeasible, only qualified electricians can work on energised systems and necessary precautions must be taken.
Test lead contact is the only way to accurately measure live voltage
At one point, attaching test lead probes/alligator clips to electrical conductors was the best way for measuring live voltage, however, this brought many increased risks to the person doing the test, as well as the equipment being tested, due to this requiring metal-to-metal contact. Today, there are new technologies that can detect and measure voltage in a safer way. This technology isolates the measurement tool from the voltage source under test. To measure voltage, electricians simply slide a single conducting wire into the open fork of the tool – this prevents them from being exposed to contact points with live voltage, therefore the risk of electrical shock and arc flash is reduced.
Every test lead and fuse are created equal
Test leads and fuses are often seen as common objects and not much thought is given regarding their quality. However, regardless of millimetre quality, they are only as safe as the test leads used in conjunction with it and the fuses inside as these provide crucial protection against power voltage spikes and power surges, which can be extremely dangerous to the user and could cause injury. Choosing good test leads and high-quality fuses is extremely important and doing so can prevent serious injury.
These are just a few electrical safety myths that people fall for, even those that are entering the industry. When working as an electrician, it’s extremely important for your own and others safety to fully understand all safety requirements and follow them correctly. If you are new to the industry or are retraining, it may be worth taking a course such as the 18th Edition to get to grips with wiring regulations as knowing these can expand your knowledge when it comes to electrical safety.