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Finding Your “Why” for Working Safely Around Electricity

I could have been a statistic. I should have been a statistic. Looking in the mirror through the eyes of a young electrician, I was invincible. Now reflecting through the eyes of a more experienced electrician, I know that I was not invincible – I was lucky. Maybe the decision to hold cardboard inside live switchgear to deflect metal shavings from hitting the bus, while my coworker drilled out the enclosure was not the best idea. If you have worked in this industry long enough you have either seen these poor decisions made by others, made them yourself, or likely both. It isn’t the fact that I was young then and now I am an older, wiser man that helps me to see that my decision was wrong. I could have seen that at any age, if I actually wanted to look for it. Hindsight is always 20/20. But foresight might be the missing component needed, regardless of age, to help ensure electrical safety in the workplace. Maybe the shift needs to focus on why we need to be safe, in order to push ourselves to follow through on how to be safe.

In order to meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements, NFPA 70E® Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace provides the methods and procedures for how to be safe when working around electricity. Without question, the most important component of personal safety, and even the safety of others, is being trained and qualified to perform specific tasks. But “why” exactly does a person feel the need to be safe? While there are some risk takers, personal injury would likely be at the forefront of most people’s minds. Financial impact, such as OSHA fines, for not working safely also come into play. Personal well-being and financial considerations are great starts to the reason for “why to be safe, but finding the driving forces will likely require a deeper dive on a personal level. What is reason that you want to return home safely after your work shift is over?

The answer to that question will be different for everyone. Likely as a young electrician, it will change as you grow older and have more life experiences and responsibilities placed upon you. Earlier in my career, my “why” would likely have been going home to ride my motorcycle with my friends that night. Being older and with life’s priorities shifting, my “why” now revolves around going home to be a husband to my wife and father to our four children. Aside from the why changing with age, it may change when your role changes. When I became a foreman in charge of other employees, it was important to remain safe not only to be there for them but also to be a good example to help them make choices to keep them safe. As a contractor responsible for more than 200 employees, the “why” behind safety was to ensure that everyone made it home to their individual “why” reason each night. I never wanted to have to make the call to an employee’s spouse or family member to let them know that their loved one had been injured on the job.

Keep in mind, this is not a test. There is no right or wrong answer when finding your “why” to want to go home safely. Everyone who chooses to find their own “why” may arrive at a different answer, but we all must take the time to determine what the answer is. Whether your “why” stays the same for 30 years, or changes every time you put your boots on in the morning to go to work, does not matter. What matters is that you spend time every day to determine what your why is. Then use that “why” as the driving force to work safely around electricity, in order to get you home safely each night. When it comes to electrical safety, it's critical to not only have the knowledge on how to be safe but ensure you know the reason “why” you choose to be safe.

The why is up to you. Learn more on how to be safer when working around electricity by seeking out available training on NFPA 70E.

NFPA 70E the National Electrical Code® (NEC®) is now available in NFPA LiNK™, the association’s information delivery platform with NFPA codes and standards, supplementary content, and visual aids for building, electrical, and life safety professionals and practitioners. Learn more at nfpa.org/LiNK.   

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Corey Hannahs
Electrical Content Specialist, Corey serves as an electrical subject matter expert in the development of products and services that support NFPA documents and stakeholders.

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