INTRODUCTION

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 in our daily life. It is a tribute to the designers, installers, maintenance personnel and regulatory bodies that we justifiably enjoy such a high level of confidence in the safety of our power systems and electrical devices. Work practices developed over the years have proven effective and contribute significantly to the prevention of electrical injuries and in reducing incidents.

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

ELECTRICITY AS CAUSES IN FIRES:

  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. 1992–95 NFPA Survey data, March 1998 report.

  2. Fire from these electrical causes approximated 41.7%, or 11,100 of the fire events in Stores 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. 1992–95 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.

  4. In Aged Care Facilities, appliances, which includes tools, air conditioning, dryers and unclassified appliances, is 31.4% of the fire causes with electrical distribution accounting for another 9.3%. 1992–95 NFPA Survey data, March 1998 report.

  5. While incendiary or suspicious causes total 52.0% of the total fires and 62.5% of the property damage in Educational Facilities, electrical distribution still accounted for 8.6% and appliances for another 5.0%. 1992–95 NFPA Survey, March 1998 report.

  6. Eating and Drinking establishment leading causes of fires involves cooking equipment (40.5%), but electrical distribution (12.5%), other equipment (9.6%) and appliances (5.4%) provided significant sources over the period. 1992–95 NFPA Survey, March 1998 report.

FATALITIES TRACEABLE TO ELECTRICAL SOURCES:

  1. Contact with electric current still causes an average of 321 occupational fatalities annually. BLS Census of Fatal Occupational injuries, 1992–97

  2. Consumer Product related electrocutions averaged 550 over the last four years of available information (1992–95). National Center for Health Statistics, CPSC/EHHA

  3. Residential fire deaths resulting from electrical equipment averaged 780 annually over the last six years (1992–97). CPSC/EHHA, U.S. Fire Administration and NFPA

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