Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Electrical Tools & Extension Cords; Don't Get Zapped!

Good morning to all I.D.I. employees:  Getting zapped by electricity is not fun.  You can get external burns, internal burns that affect your organs and it can even stop your heart causing you to die.  When electricity runs though the human body, it is seeking a path through your body to get to the ground.  If you are holding a tool such as a mixing drill or an electric saw in your right hand and your cord on your tool has exposed wires protruding out from the cord's rubber insulation and that exposed wire happens to be laying in a puddle of water, you will likely have electricity running through your body.  The electricity will enter through your hand, run up your arm and then down through your body.  There is no exact path that the electricity takes to get to the ground, however, if the path happens to run across your heart, this is when it can change your heartbeat causing a possible serious problem or even death. 
So, how do you protect yourself from this occuring?  By inspecting your electrical tools and cords daily.  Ensure that your cords have no exposed wires.  Ensure that the outer rubber insulation on your cord is in good condition.  If you are using a tool that has a ground prong on the plug end, make sure the ground prong is in place.  The ground prong keeps the tool grounded to the earth to help protect you.  Ensure that you are following our Assured Grounding Program meaning that your tools and extension cords with 3 prongs on the plug end have been properly inspected and tested on a quarterly basis and appropriately color-coded to document the cord was inspected and tested for the current quarter.  From 1/1/11 through 3/31/11 we are using white tape for our Assured Grounding Program. 
Also, a good safe practice is to plug your cords into a ground fault circuit interrupter or GFCI.  A GFCI monitors the amount of current flowing from hot to neutral.  If there is any imbalance, it trips the circuit.  It is able to sense a mismatch as small as 4 or 5 milliamps, and it can react as quickly as one-thirteenth of a second. 
So let's say you are outside with your power drill and it is raining. You are standing on the ground, and since the drill is wet, there is a path from the hot wire inside the drill through you to ground.  If electricity flows from hot to ground through you, it could be fatal.  The GFCI can sense the current flowing through you because not all of the current is flowing from hot to neutral as it expects -- some of it is flowing through you to ground. As soon as the GFCI senses that, it trips the circuit and cuts off the electricity.  Some general contractors require GFCI's to be used 100% of the time.  I.D.I. does have GFCI's available for you to use.  If you are working in wet conditions or if you are at a job site that requries GFCI's, notify your Foreman and/or Superintendent and advise that you need a GFCI. 
Final note; do not repair electrical tools and cords yourself.  If your tool or cord has a problem, remove it from service and have it turned into our shop for service.
Have a Safe Day!