The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Identifying Electrical Hazards

Jay Stansell - Friday, March 18, 2011

Electricity is something we use every day.  It has no shape, weight, or smell.  It can’t even be seen yet electricity is often all around us.

And we all know that contact with electricity can cause serious injuries or death.  There are two forms of electricity:

1.          Static Electricity – electrical charge that does not move.

2.          Current Electricity – electrical charge that does move.

Static Electricity

Whilst static electricity is a hazard in its own right, the main concern associated with static electricity is the creation of sparks in an explosive or flammable atmosphere. 

The combination of sparking and an explosive atmosphere at the Lower Explosive Level (LEL) can set off an explosion or fire.  The risk is increased when flammable gas or liquids are present or being poured or transferred.

For static electricity to cause an explosion four factors are necessary:

1.          A means for static charge to develop;

2.          Enough energy to cause a spark;

3.          A discharge of energy; and

4.          A flammable atmosphere above the LEL.

Current Electricity

Current electricity is a hazard.  There are a several types of potential incidents associated with current electricity:

»            Shock – when persons make contact with overhead or below-ground power supplies or live electrical components, exposed wires due to mechanical damage of insulation, water egress or damp conditions;

»            Ignition - of dusts, vapour, gas, or combustible materials;

»            Overheating - of circuits and electrical appliances;

»            Explosion - of electrical equipment; and

»            Unplanned Activation - of equipment.

Lightning Strike

A form of naturally-occurring static-electrical discharge that can be extremely dangerous!

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