By Lori Yerdon, Strategic Communication Directorate, U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center, Fort Rucker, AlabamaMay 1, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- May is Electrical Safety Month, and officials are encouraging everyone in the Army Family to stay aware of potential hazards and understand the importance of electrical safety.
Electrical Safety Foundation International is the sponsor of the annual observance. According to their website, ESFI is dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety at home and in the workplace through education, awareness and advocacy.
In the United States, electrical problems cause more than 51,000 home fires annually, resulting in more than 490 deaths, 1,400 injuries and $1.3 billion in property damage, data from the National Fire Protection Association show. Another 400 Americans are electrocuted each year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
"Observing Electrical Safety Month gives the Army an opportunity to really think about ways to keep Soldiers, Civilians and their Family members safe while they're around electricity," said Al Brown, a safety and occupational health specialist at the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center.
"Electricity has long been recognized as a serious workplace hazard, exposing service members and employees to electric shock, electrocution, burns, fires and explosions," Brown added. "It's essential in life, both at home and on the job. Our goal at the USACR/Safety Center is to reduce electrical injuries and fatalities and ensure organizations are in compliance with applicable federal, Department of Defense, Army, state, local and command standards."
Between fiscal 2007 and fiscal 2011, the Army experienced an average of 30 electrical accidents per year, peaking in 2008 with 46 reported accidents and 2 fatalities.
"Most electrical accidents result from unsafe equipment or improper installation of equipment, an unsafe environment or unsafe work practices," said Mike Evans, a safety and occupational health manager with the USACR/Safety Center. "We can prevent these accidents easily through the use of insulation, guarding, grounding, electrical protective devices and safe work practices. Folks need to be vigilant not only in their work areas, but at home too."
The National Fire Protection Association recently released an updated version of NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace. Brown said if safety managers correctly implement the guidelines outlined in the update, the Army would see an even further reduction in electrical injuries across the force.
In addition to receiving information from safety managers, individuals can educate themselves on electrical hazards by contacting their local or installation fire department for training materials and tips on keeping their home or workplace safe.
"Safety in the workplace is crucial and something all Leaders and supervisors should enforce to ensure proper procedures is followed when working with electricity," Brown said. "The human factor associated with electrical accidents can be immeasurable. No one can replace a worker or loved one who has died or suffered the irreparable consequences of an electrical accident.
"Electricity is a necessity in everyday life, both at work and at home," said Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Stidley, USACR/Safety Center. "Yet many people take electrical safety for granted by overloading extension cords or using them as a permanent fix in their homes and work areas. Fire is a very real hazard with tragic consequences. Respect the power of electricity."