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Toolbox Talk - Electricity

Max People Health & Safety Bulletin

Leads laying in the water, exposed wires, the protective outer casing on leads open, the cracked plastic outer casing of power tools, leads hung directly onto metal structures, coiled leads, the list goes on.

The trust placed in the protective covering of an extension lead or tool is worrying.

  • Is it because we can’t see the electricity, therefore, it doesn’t exist?
  • Maybe we just choose to ignore something... that could kill us?
  • Or it’s the classic belief that it will never happen to me?

Whatever the reason, let's consider what happens to us when it turns pear-shaped.

What happens when we contact electricity?

  • It generates heat as it travels through our body tissues. This heat can cause external/internal burns as the current enters and exits the body. The heat can also cause major damage to muscles and other internal tissues.
  • As it flows through our bodies it can replicate or interfere with the signals being carried through the nervous system. In some cases, this can paralyze your muscles for the duration of contact with the electrical current. If you happen to be on a ladder, scaffold or other elevated working surface and fall, it will cause more damage to our frail bodies.
  • The current running through your body can also restrict your ability to breathe normally, as it can paralyze the muscles used to expand your lungs. In some cases, it can interfere with the nerve signals that regulate the rhythm of your heart, which can cause your heart to fibrillate (beat irregularly) or go into cardiac arrest.
  • An electrical arc flash, which occurs as electricity travels through the air as an electrical short occurs, heats the air in the immediate area to super-hot temperatures. This arc flash can severely burn your skin, as well as sear the inside of your lungs if you inhale the superheated air. The extreme temperatures generated by an electrical arc flash can melt metal, plastics, and other materials, sending molten particles spewing through the air.

“It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.”

— Tony Robbins