Electrical Safety

Construction work can involve working with electrical equipment including lighting, wires, tools, cords and panels. This may involve working near an electric utility line or equipment. If you do not take the right precautions when working with electricity you risk electrical shock or worse, death.

The majority of us use electricity every day on the job. This familiarity can create a false sense of security. It's important to remember that electricity is always a potential source of danger.

The basic rule is simple: consider all electrical wires and equipment to be live until they are tested and proven otherwise.

The human body is an efficient conductor of electricity and contact with electric current can cause serious injury, including:

  • Electric shock - results when electricity flows between parts of the body or through the body to a ground or the earth.
  • Electrocution - results when a person is exposed to a lethal amount of electrical energy.
  • Electrical burn - occurs when electric current flows through tissues or bone, generating heat that causes tissue damage.
  • Thermal burn - occurs when the skin touches hot surfaces of overheated electric conductors, conduits, or other energized equipment.
  • Loss of muscle control - occurs when a current of six to 25 milliamperes (ma) flows through a body.

The extent of injury depends on the amount of electric current, the path, and duration.

Employees in the construction industry can get electrical injuries from:

  • Contact with high voltage power lines
  • Poorly installed or maintained electrical equipment, tools and machinery
  • Contact with hot electrical machinery or equipment
  • Arc flash

Electricity also can cause fires and explosions in environments that contain flammable gases, vapours, or combustible dusts.

As an employer you must:

  • Train all employees to recognize and avoid the hazards associated with their work.
  • Contact the authority that owns or operates the electrical utility line or utility line equipment to ensure that the line or equipment is (a) de-energized, or (b) adequately insulated or guarded before permitting any employees to start work.
  • When an employee who is not a qualified person is about to start work that is liable to bring any person or object close to an energized electrical line or utility line equipment, maintain the minimum distances specified in the table.
Phase to Phase Voltage of Energized Electrical
Utility Line or Utility Line Equipment Distance
Up to 750 v 900 mm
750 v - 100,000 v 3.6 m
100,001 v - 250,000 v 5.2 m
250,001 v - 345,000 v 6.1 m
  • Ensure that the employee does not use a metal ladder or wire reinforced ladder when they work closer to utility lines or utility line equipment than a distance specified in the above table.
  • Train operators, electricians and maintenance staff on lockout/tag out procedures, emergency response procedures and other safe work procedures and ensure those procedures are followed.
  • Allow only authorized persons to enter a room containing energized electrical equipment with exposed parts by marking it with conspicuous warning signs at the entrance of the room.
  • Allow only qualified persons to work on and maintain electrical equipment and machinery.
  • Ensure that no employee in a manhole or tunnel works on an energized electrical conductor or with electrical equipment having a potential in excess of 750 volts.
  • Ensure that temporary panel boards are securely mounted, protected from weather and water, easily accessible to employees, and kept clear of obstructions.
  • Ground any equipment that can become energized such as dispensing equipment used for transferring flammable liquids and overhead cranes used in high voltage areas.

To prevent from the risks of electrical hazards, as an employee you must:

  • Maintain a safe distance when working near overhead power lines and energized equipment.
  • Not use a metal ladder or wire reinforced ladder when working closer to utility lines or utility line equipment than a distance specified in the above table.
  • Use rubber gloves, mats, shields and other protective equipment to ensure protection from electrical shocks and burns while performing the work, where it is not practical to de-energize the equipment.
  • Use only appropriately rated testing equipment when testing and trouble-shooting electrical equipment.
  • Use only fuses or breakers of the recommended amperage. For example, if the electrical system is rated for 30 amps, do not use a fuse or breaker that’s higher than 30 amps.
  • Never cut off, bend back, or cheat the ground pin on three-prong plugs.
  • Make sure extension cords are the right gauge for the job to prevent overheating, voltage drops, and tool burnout.
  • Check extension cords and outlets with a circuit-tester before use.
  • Always use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) when using portable electric tools outdoors or in damp or wet locations. GFCIs detect current that may be leaking to the ground from a tool or cord, and will shut off power before injury or damage can happen.
  • Check for electrical wires or equipment before drilling, nailing, cutting, or sawing into walls, ceilings, and floors.
  • Never use water extinguishers to fight electrical fires.

General Regulation - Occupational Health and Safety Act
N.B. Reg. 91-191

Part XIX ELECTRICAL SAFETY

Section 286

286. In this Part

"electrical equipment" means any wiring, apparatus, instrument, fitting, fixture, machinery or device that transforms, transmits, distributes, supplies or utilizes electricity, but does not include energized electrical utility lines or utility line equipment or household appliances;

"qualified person" means

(a) when applied to work on electrical equipment, a person who meets the requirements of section 11 or 24 of New Brunswick Regulation 84-165 under the Electrical Installation and Inspection Act;

(b) when applied to work on an energized electrical utility line or utility line equipment,

(i) a person who is the holder of a certificate of qualification issued under the Apprenticeship and Occupational Certification Act for the operating lineman trade, construction lineman trade or distribution construction lineman trade, or

(ii) a person who is registered as an apprentice under the Apprenticeship and Occupational Certification Act for an occupation described in subparagraph (i) and who is working under the supervision of a person described in subparagraph (i),

(c) when applied to work in an arboricultural operation described in section 369 that occurs closer to an energized electrical utility line or utility line equipment than the distances set out in subsection 289(1), an employee who meets the requirements of section 369, and

(d) when applied to any other type of work that occurs closer to an energized electrical utility line or utility line equipment than a distance set out in subsection 289(1), an employee who is trained to use and follows a code of practice established by the employer.

[N.B. Reg. 2001-33, s. 94]

Section 287 Qualifications

287. (1) An employer shall ensure that an employee does not work on energized electrical equipment unless the employee is a qualified person described in paragraph (a) of the definition "qualified person" in section 286.

(2) An employer shall ensure that an employee does not work on an energized electrical utility line or utility line equipment unless the employee is a qualified person described in paragraph (b) of the definition "qualified person" in section 286.

(3) Subject to paragraph 289(2)(b), an employer shall ensure that an employee does not work closer to an energized electrical utility line or utility line equipment than the applicable distance set out in subsection 289(1) unless the employee is a qualified person.

[N.B. Reg. 2001-33, ss. 95, 96]

Section 287.3

287.3 (1) An employer shall ensure that the power supply to electrical equipment is de-energized, locked out of service and tagged before any work is done on the equipment and while the work is done on the equipment.

(2) Electrical equipment is not required to be locked out if

(a) the equipment is adequately grounded with a visible grounding wire, or

(b) the voltage is less than 300 volts to ground, there is no locking device for circuit breakers and there is a procedure in place to ensure the circuit is not inadvertently energized.

[N.B. Reg. 2001-33, s. 97]

Section 287.4

287.4 (1) Where it is not practicable to de-energize electrical equipment before working on or near energized exposed parts of the equipment, an employee shall use rubber gloves, mats, shields and other protective equipment to ensure protection from electrical shocks and burns while performing the work.

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply to testing and troubleshooting of electrical equipment.

(3) An employer and an employee shall each ensure that only appropriately rated testing equipment is used when testing and trouble-shooting electrical equipment.

[N.B. Reg. 2001-33, s. 97]

Section 287.5

287.5 An employer shall ensure that main service switches and temporary panel boards of electrical equipment

(a) are securely mounted on sufficient supports on an upright position,

(b) are kept clear of any obstructions for one metre in front and two metres headroom,

(c) are within easy reach of and readily accessible to authorized persons,

(d) are adequately protected from weather and the accumulation of water,

(e) have a suitable cover over uninsulated energized parts, and

(f) have a label or other indicator that identifies what equipment is energized by each line.

[N.B. Reg. 2001-33, s. 97]

Section 289 Utility Lines and Utility Line Equipment

289. (1) An employer shall ensure that an employee who is not a qualified person does not carry out any work, and no such employee shall carry out any work, that is liable to bring any person or object closer to an energized electrical utility line or utility line equipment than the distances specified in the following table:

Table

Phase to Phase Voltage of Energized Electrical Utility Line or Utility Line Equipment Distance
Up to 750 v 900 mm
750 v - 100,000 v 3.6 m
100,001 v - 250,000 v 5.2 m
250,001 v - 345,000 v 6.1 m

(2) Where an employee who is not a qualified person is about to commence work that is liable to bring any person or object closer to an energized electrical utility line or utility line equipment than a distance specified in subsection (1), an employer shall contact the authority owning or operating the energized electrical utility line or utility line equipment and shall ensure that the utility line or utility line equipment

(a) is de-energized, or

(b) is adequately insulated or guarded

before permitting the employee to commence the work.

[N.B. Reg. 2001-33, s. 100]

Section 292

292. (1) Before permitting an employee to commence work on any component of an electrical distribution or transmission system, an employer shall establish a code of practice to be followed by the employee which shall include the following:

(a) the components to be handled in a de-energized state;

(b) method of de-energizing parts of the electrical distribution system;

(c) lock out procedure;

(d) method of de-energizing parts of the electrical distribution or transmission system when the lock out procedure referred to in paragraph (c) cannot be implemented;

(e) method of recording notifications to employees of safe conditions for work;

(f) method of determining that all employees are clear of work areas and have been instructed to remain clear before the electrical distribution or transmission system, or any part of it, is re-energized; and

(g) method of re-energizing the electrical distribution or transmission system.

(2) An employer shall ensure that the code of practice referred to in subsection (1) is complied with and an employee shall comply with the code of practice.

(3) An employer shall make a copy of the code of practice available to an officer upon request.

Section 296

296. An employer shall ensure that no employee in a manhole or tunnel works on an energized electrical conductor or with electrical equipment having a potential in excess of 750 volts.

Section 297

297. Where an employee may come closer to an energized electrical utility line or utility line equipment than a distance specified in subsection 289(1), an employer shall ensure that the employee does not use, and an employee shall not use a metal ladder or wire reinforced ladder.

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY ACT
A.N.B. 1983, c. O-0.2

DUTIES OF EMPLOYERS, OWNERS, CONTRACTORS, SUB-CONTRACTORS, EMPLOYEES AND SUPPLIERS

Section 9 Duties of employer

9. (1) Every employer shall

(a) take every reasonable precaution to ensure the health and safety of his employees;

(b) comply with this Act, the regulations and any order made in accordance with this Act or the regulations; and

(c) ensure that his employees comply with this Act, the regulations and any order made in accordance with this Act or the regulations.

(2) Without limiting the generality of the duties under subsection (1), every employer shall

(a) ensure that the necessary systems of work, tools, equipment, machines, devices and materials are maintained in good condition and are of minimum risk to health and safety when used as directed by the supplier or in accordance with the directions supplied by the supplier;

(a.1) ensure that the place of employment is inspected at least once a month to identify any risks to the health and safety of his employees;

(b) acquaint an employee with any hazard in connection with the use, handling, storage, disposal and transport of any tool, equipment, machine, device or biological, chemical or physical agent;

(c) provide the information that is necessary to ensure an employee’s health and safety;

(c.1) provide the instruction that is necessary to ensure an employee’s health and safety;

(c.2) provide the training that is necessary to ensure an employee’s health and safety;

(c.3) provide the supervision that is necessary to ensure an employee’s health and safety;

(d) provide and maintain in good condition such protective equipment as is required by regulation and ensure that such equipment is used by an employee in the course of work;

(e) co-operate with a committee, where such a committee has been established, a health and safety representative, where such a representative has been elected or designated, and with any person responsible for the enforcement of this Act and the regulations.

(3) An employer shall develop a program for the inspection referred to in paragraph (2)(a.1) with the joint health and safety committee, if any, or the health and safety representative, if any, and shall share the results of each inspection with the committee or the health and safety representative.

[S.N.B. 2001, c. 35, s. 3; 2007, c. 12, s. 2; 2013, c. 15, s. 4]