Jorge Castanon, Safety Consultant, FRSA Self Insurer's Fund
Each year, in the United States, about 700 workers get injured by electricity. In 2020, 126 workers died due to exposure to electricity.
When discussing electricity, there are several terms we need to be familiar with: current, volts, amperes and watts are the most important.
Current is the intensity of electricity and is measured in amperes (amps). Most household and industrial electric wiring carries 15 to 20 amps. The thicker the wires, the more current they can usually hold. It’s important to remember that it’s amps that deliver electric shocks and it doesn’t take many amps to cause a serious injury.
Volts are another term we hear a lot. Volts measure the force behind the current that is flowing. In North America, most power tools and household appliances run on 120 volts, but some specialized heavy-duty equipment require extra power and often run on 220 or more volts. Like amps, the higher the voltage the greater the danger.
Watts are a third term that is frequently encountered when working with electricity. Watts can be thought of as the combination of amps and voltage. You can determine how many amps something uses by dividing its wattage rating by the voltage in the electrical system it is running on.
Let’s look at how an electrical system works. Electricity flows when a loop or circuit is completed. This loop is created when an uninterrupted stream of electricity passes through a piece of equipment and returns to the power source. Only when a circuit is complete will tools and machinery be powered up and ready to go. One of the most important things to remember about electricity is that if it somehow leaks or jumps from the conducting wire, it will still try and complete a circuit by finding the shortest path to the ground. Unfortunately, this can lead to a nasty shock if you’re in its path. Read more.