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Wiring and Cabling Safety: Tips for avoiding electrical hazards, falls and more

By Tom O'Connor | Mar 15, 2024
Wiring and Cabling Safety
You can’t have electricity and telecommunications without wiring and cable. With proper training, understanding any dangers and executing basic safety practices, electrical contractors can drastically reduce the likelihood of an incident occurring while running wire and cable.

You can’t have electricity and telecommunications without wiring and cable. With proper training, understanding any dangers and executing basic safety practices, electrical contractors can drastically reduce the likelihood of an incident occurring while running wire and cable.

Electrocution

It should come as no surprise that the top hazard electrical workers and cabling contractors face is electrocution. Fire and explosion caused by overload and arc flash can also happen. Electricians and individuals working on or near electricity should already be well-versed in electrical hazards, relevant regulations and appropriate safety protocols.

Workers should avoid working in wet areas; stay away from overhead power lines; inspect wiring, elements, components and outlets for damage; and use ground fault circuit interrupters. These portable devices can be plugged into an outlet or circuit to kill the power as a final failsafe in the event something else goes wrong.

A safety plan should address relevant hazards, emergency response duties and safe evacuation procedures, and ensure that all Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations, building codes and safety protocols will be adhered to.

As a refresher, electrical workers and cabling contractors should abide by all NFPA 70E guidelines. This is especially true for lockout/tagout. Additionally, the appropriate personal protective equipment and insulated rubber wear must be worn for the task at hand.

Workers and employers should be familiar with OSHA’s general industry Electrical Safety Standard 1910.137(b)(2) addressing PPE and its construction industry Electrical Safety Standard 1926.431 covering explosive-proofing. 

They should also be familiar with 1926.416(a)(3), which identifies employer responsibilities, such as labeling circuits with easy-to-see signage to warn workers before starting work in an area with a live circuit and to locate and inspect circuits regularly.

In addition, it is imperative that workers always use the right tools. For wiring and cable installers, this may include a voltage tester, wire cutters, wire/cable strippers, needle-nose pliers and continuity testers, among others. 

Utility workers installing underground cable may require a wire trencher, excavator or other heavy machinery. (Note: underground cable installation may require additional safety precautions addressing trenching, shoring and excavating.)

Slips, trips and falls

Electrical hazards are not the only risks when installing wire or cable. Falls are a significant hazard, which may include from elevated positions such as ladders, scaffolds or work platforms, and slips, trips and low-level falls. When installing wiring and cable from heights, workers can avoid injury by using the appropriate fall-­protection equipment and adhering to basic ladder safety. This means using the right ladder for the job, maintaining three points of contact, never standing on the top rung and not reaching laterally for tools or other objects.

Avoid low-level falls by paying attention to the direction of travel and ensuring that work areas are free from tools, clutter, debris and other objects. 

Good housekeeping

Clean up spills or sawdust accumulated on work surfaces immediately. Tape down extension cords and loose rugs or mats. Good housekeeping goes a long way toward minimizing the risk of slips, trips and falls in all work environments.

Cabling contractors may also encounter eye injuries. Fiber optic cables carry light that can damage the eye. As a result, eye and face protection should always be worn. Falling objects and caught-in or caught-between hazards are also common for workers involved in this type of work.

When lifting large, bulky spools of wire or cable, use proper manual lifting techniques. If the wire or cable is too heavy to carry alone, workers should get help from a colleague or use forklifts, cranes or other pieces of equipment intended for material handling.

Upon completion, workers should check and test everything to ensure there are no loose connections or open cables and everything is neat and tight.

Finally, employers need to make sure that employees are properly trained for the specific work environment. This is especially important in scenarios involving asbestos, respiratory protection, HazCom and working in confined spaces.

shutterstock / Technicsorn Stocker

About The Author

O’CONNOR is safety and regulatory affairs manager for Intec, a safety consulting, training and publishing firm. Reach him at [email protected].

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