As we enter the year 2000, fatalities, injuries and property losses occurring from electrical causes remain high. Indeed, in some of the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, there was an increase of 14.3% in fatal occupational injuries involving electrical causes in 1998 over 1997. This reflects the second year in a row that there has been an increase in occupational deaths in this category. In a March 1999 update, the United States Fire Administration reports that electrical fires in our homes claim an estimated 400 to 700 additional lives each year while thousands more are injured. Few issues pervade the world of the safety practitioner as thoroughly as electricity with its potential for both benefit and harm. Examples of the life saving benefits involving electricity, such as emergency lighting, communications and medical support equipment are numerous. Certainly, electrical devices, in general, are virtually unavoidable. It is a tribute to the designers, installers, maintenance personnel and regulatory bodies that we justifiably enjoy a high level of confidence in our power systems and electrical devices. Work practices developed over the years have proven effective and contribute significantly to the overall reduction in injuries.

Nevertheless, electrical safety continues to present a formidable challenge to many safety practitioners, and with good reason.


It will be seen from the following that electricity is the principle source of fires in many types of industries, businesses or services. Electrical failures are often the precursors of fire and have as a root cause a defect or deficiency introduced at some stage of its design, manufacture or maintenance. Misuse of electrical appliances, equipment or other electrical components also contributes to failures that may lead to fires. These failures can be totally eliminated by some of the methods covered in the lecture. The following is restated from the 1999 proceeding document.

  1. Most fires (46.4%) in Industry and Manufacturing have electrical distribution, electrical equipment and/or appliances as cause. Electrical distribution, which Includes fixed wiring, switches, fuses, circuit breakers, cords, signs, lamps, ballast's or receptacles and similar, accounts for 7.8% of the fire fatalities and 6.8% of the injuries. 1992–96 NFPA Survey data, March 1998 report.

  2. Fire from these electrical causes approximated 41.7%, or 11,100 of the fire events inStores and Offices and resulted in loses of $176.1 million. Electrical distribution components account for 15% of the fatalities and 20.3% of the injuries. 1992–96 NFPA Survey data, March 1998 report.

  3. Other equipment, such as computers, x-ray machines, various electronic equipment, separate motors and generators are identified with 19.2% of the fires and 23.9% of the property damage in Sick Care Facilities. Electrical distribution again was a major fire cause contributor with an additional 11.5%. 1992–95 NFPA Survey, March 1998 report.

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