31 Oct 2019

Everything You Need to Know About Electrical Safety at Events

Aggreko safety for life emplpyee

When you’re working with electricity, the slightest mistake can lead to devastating consequences. 

Just two years ago, a 54-year-old worker at a South Florida fair was fatally electrocuted while setting up a Ferris Wheel. In another tragic case, a 15-month-old toddler died at a festival in Kansas after gripping a fence that had been accidentally electrified. In Maryland, a 6-year-old girl was left in a critical condition after touching an electrified railing near a fountain.

Incidents like these are not as rare as you might think. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, electrocutions account for 9% of all fatal workplace accidents. 

For victims and their families, an electrical accident can mean permanent disability or even loss of life. For facility managers, owners and event organizers, it can lead to costly lawsuits. If you’re deemed responsible for the tragedy, you will likely be liable for damages, medical expenses, lost earnings and more. 

All in all, when it comes to electrical safety on site, you cannot afford to take risks. For large-scale events that involve temporary electrical installations, you must take extensive precautions to keep everyone safe.

Identifying Hazards

Start by auditing your site to figure out where problems might crop up. Seek input from all key personnel involved in setting up and running your event, as they’ll be aware of small details you may not have thought about. 

Also, consider the perspective of participants and visitors. What might they do, where might they go or what shortcuts might they try to take that could lead them to encounter electrical dangers? 

Risk Assessments

Once you have a comprehensive picture of the electrical hazards at your event, work out what to prioritize by estimating the potential impact of each hazard. This will be easier and more accurate if you use a risk assessment matrix to guide you. 

Controlling Risk

Now you can figure out solutions to these specific problems. Starting with high-level risks, work through the list, noting practical strategies for tackling each one. 

That might mean removing the hazard altogether, substituting a process or item of equipment with a safer alternative, engineering a better setup, implementing safety gear, or in unavoidable cases, simply ensuring that potential dangers are clearly signposted and monitored.

Your Electrical Safety Checklist

To get you started, implement these 17 steps:

  1. Ensure Everyone Who Handles Electricity Has an LEA.
    Everyone who handles power, from technicians through to casual laborers, should have a Letter of Electrical Authority. This means they’ve undergone testing and interviews by an authorized electrical authority to ensure they understand and follow safety procedures whenever electricity is involved. 

  2. Provide Training
    All workers must be shown how to use electrical equipment correctly.

  3. Check You Have Enough Power Sockets Available 
    Make sure you aren’t overloading sockets with unfused adaptors, as this can lead to fires.

  4. Provide Personal Protection 
    If any of your team need to directly handle electrical materials, they should be using electrical gloves and footwear at the very least. Depending on their level of contact and whether they’re working with wiring, consider extra precautions such as face shields or protective eyewear, fire-resistant helmets and earmuffs.

  5. Test Everything 
    If your team needs to handle electrical wiring or equipment, make sure you have voltage detectors, clamp meters, receptacle testers, and other relevant power testing equipment on hand – and use it!  

  6. Use Cord Protectors
    Always use safe extension cords and outlet strips, and improve safety further with cable covers, cord protectors, floor cable protectors and/or cable ramps to prevent trips. 

  7. Make Use of Voltage Regulators and Circuit Breakers. 
    These will help you nip problems in the bud. In an emergency, a surge protector will cut the main power supply to prevent accidents. Voltage regulators, meanwhile, are designed to protect equipment.

  8. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters aren’t just for bathrooms
    Applying these to all your receptacle outlets will help prevent electrical shocks. They improve safety, especially in wet/damp locations. 

  9. Switch Off and Unplug Appliances 
    When not in use and before cleaning or adjusting them

  10. Check for Trailing Cables 
    Again, these cause people to trip or fall.

  11. Establish Where Electrical Cables Are 
    In particular, make sure there are none in any walls, floors, and ceilings you’re about to drill into.

  12. Don’t Ask People to Do Things If They Don’t Have the Right Skills 
    Even wiring a plug wrong can cause fatal accidents or fires if you don’t know what you’re doing.

  13. Don’t Take Risks with Faulty Equipment 
    If you have any concerns, stop using it straight away.

  14. Plan daily checks and periodic throughout the day
    Conditions change, things get moved, cords get damaged. A event is a dynamic site so keep an eye out even after set up. What once was fine might not be now.

  15. Take Care with Overhead Cables. 
    Don’t work under power lines if equipment like ladders, crane jibs or scaffolding could come within six meters of them. Flashes of electricity can jump the gap.

  16. Clearly Signpost Danger Zones. 
    This is particularly important with temporary installations. Locate the main electrical intakes and any generator enclosures and display danger warning signs around them.

  17. Protect Against the Weather
    Always keep electrical equipment safe and dry with shelters, enclosures or covers to protect them against the elements.

Final Thoughts: Changing the Culture

Ultimately, the best way to prevent accidents is to establish a culture of safety. Your team must be confident enough to flag up issues and concerns – and know they’ll be taken seriously.

This also means being strict with yourself about only working with vendors that take safety seriously, too. 

Ask them about their training procedures - for example, at Aggreko, we run monthly online virtual learning sessions and are rigorous about ensuring that our technicians have hands-on training and up-to-date certificates. Check that their workers have LEAs. Make sure they also have Stop Work Authority, meaning that they are obliged to identify and put a stop to anything that looks unsafe. 

When people’s lives are in your hands, you need to make sure that you trust every single person you work with to do things right. You can’t risk a nasty shock later on – in every sense of the word.