Special Work Conditions and Safe Material Handling for Electrical Workers

Special Work Conditions and Safe Material Handling for Electrical Workers

Electric utility work is among the most dangerous types of jobs. Every year, 13,000 electrical workers are injured so severely that they had to take time off work. And electrical violations are consistently among the most commonly cited OSHA infractions.

Following safe work practices will significantly reduce the chance of getting injured. Here are some of the top safe work practices for electric utility workers:


Utility workers often have to work at night or in enclosed spaces that are dark. Darkness raises risks, including the increased risk of trips and falls that could produce serious injuries. Make sure there is plenty of light where you’re working, whether it’s natural sunlight, fluorescent floodlights, portable lighting, or some other form of illumination.


Before working on capacitors, disconnect them from energized sources, then wait of at least 5 minutes before ensuring that they are short-circuited. Before handling, each unit in series-parallel capacitor banks must be short-circuited between all terminals and the capacitor case or its rack.

If capacitors are on ungrounded substation racks, the racks must be grounded to make the capacitors safe to handle.


Power company transformers convert high voltages used to move electricity across the country to low voltages for consumer applications. The problem with transformers is that they don't just work in one direction – high voltage to low voltage. If you put a voltage on the low voltage side, the transformer will "backfeed," producing a high voltage.

Backfeed can cause serious injury or death. If there’s a possibility of voltage backfeed from sources of co-generation or from the secondary system – for example, backfeed from more than one source feeding a common load – the line must be tested for voltage and grounded, or worked as energized.

Microwave Radiation

Microwave transmitters are the same as the microwave in your kitchen. Getting too close to a transmitter can burn your skin, and in high power it can also damage internal organs. Cell or communications transmitter dishes or antennas are sources of microwave radiation.

If the electromagnetic radiation on a job site exceeds OSHA-specified radiation protection levels, the area must be posted with the required warning signs, and employers must have measures in place that ensure workers are protected from exposure. These measures may include administrative and engineering controls and personal protective equipment.

Conductive Materials and Insulated Equipment

Do dot allow conductive materials and equipment, such as ducts, pipes, metal tools, chains, and conductive hoses, to come into contact with exposed or energized parts. Use protective shields or insulation to avoid inadvertent contact with energized exposed parts in confined spaces.

Use insulated tools and equipment when working with energized or exposed parts, and be sure that the voltage present does not exceed the rated voltage of the tool being used.

Special Precautions in Public Work Areas

Special precautions must be taken in public work areas. Working near vehicular or pedestrian traffic is dangerous, so it’s important to use a combination of protective measures, like traffic cones, traffic warning signs, barricades, and high-visibility clothing.

Stacking and Storing Materials

Store materials so that they don’t create hazards or block entrances or exits. Stacks boxes should be interlocked, and materials that can roll must be restrained. Never store flammable materials near a heat source.

Electrical Worker Training

HSI’s Special Conditions and Materials Handling course provides awareness training for electrical workers about safety procedures to be followed in special conditions and when handling materials.

Electrical work presents multiple hazards, so it can be easy to focus on the most prominent risks like falls and electrocutions. However, other risks like limited light in a work area and storing flammable materials near sources of heat can be just as dangerous. Workers need to receive electrical safety training for working in special conditions and handling materials so they can work safely.

With electrical safety training, it’s important that workers remember the content so they can put safety measures into practice on the job. Introductory videos that “hook” the worker help training material stick. Assets like animations, practice exercises, and short stories that reinforce safety topics throughout the course help workers retain key information.

Let’s work together to reduce injuries and deaths on the job. Training is the first step to a safer workplace.

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