Electrical Safety Training Courses
Written by Michael Purser
In 2022, Americans used 4 trillion kilowatt hours of electricity. While it is an essential source of power, it is also a leading cause of workplace fatalities. Between 2011 and 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 1,648 deaths resulting from occupational exposure to electrical hazards.
Electricians aren’t the only professionals who need to be careful. In fact, 69% of those fatalities were in non-electrical occupations. Maintaining a safe jobsite is everyone’s business. Investing in proper education — no matter what industry you work in — is a good way to protect yourself and others from serious injury or death at work.
The goal of training is to give you a solid grounding in common risks you may face on the job. You will also learn how to protect yourself from those dangers. Whether hazards arise from insufficient grounding or improper use of equipment, common causes of incidents can be found on any jobsite.
Most incidents can be broadly grouped into two categories.
Electrocution is a term that refers to a fatal exposure to electricity. Electrical shock, more broadly, deals with any injury relating to exposure to an energized current.
Contact with a power source, either directly or indirectly, may cause a worker to become part of a live circuit. Given enough voltage, a poorly protected power source can even arc through the air to injure anyone nearby. The human body is an excellent conductor, which can cause a variety of injuries ranging from blistered skin and nerve damage to lethal dysrhythmia (causing cardiac arrest) or multiple organ failure.
Fires and Explosions
Energy is often expressed through heat. Conductive materials exposed to a current will resist electricity to some degree, heating up in the process. An overloaded circuit, flammable vapors or other medium may ignite a blaze or trigger a deadly explosion.
A high-voltage gap can even lead to an arc flash — when a powerful current passes through empty air. An arc flash can generate heat measuring tens of thousands of degrees, which can scorch flesh, sear lungs, liquify metal and generate a powerful pressurized blast wave.
Who Sets the Standards?
Two main entities shape the requirements that govern the U.S. workplace safety standards designed to prevent electrocution and similar dangerous situations: OSHA and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Together, these organizations create and update compliance practices for everything from home service codes to training requirements.
All OSHA regulations can be found in Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations, specifically in Chapter XVII. These rules govern four major areas: general industry, construction, agriculture and maritime.
Applicable standards for general industry are found in Part 1910.302 through 1910.308 (the construction of energized systems) and in Part 1910.331 through 1910.335 (safe work practices). Similar rules for the construction industry are found in Part 1926 subpart K.
All OSHA standards work hand-in-hand with the NFPA’s National Electrical Code (NEC).
NFPA and the NEC
NFPA 70E is a crucial resource for workplace safety. It describes safe practices, jobsite requirements and other controls that safeguard employees during the installation, inspection, operation and removal of electrical equipment.
It also offers safe practices for others who may be exposed to energized circuits and live currents through a variety of common workplace tools and heavy machinery.
NFPA 70E functions as an extension of the NEC. For even more information, employees should consult NFPA 70B, which deals with the maintenance of energized systems, especially large-scale industrial installations, commercial buildings and multi-family residential complexes.
Online Training Courses
All of these documents are large, sprawling texts written in precise legal language. Rather than sort through hundreds of pages of legislation and technical writing, students can benefit from concise, easy-to-understand lessons presented through our online programs.
The level of education required and the programs that would be most beneficial depend on the scope and nature of your job.
Qualified and Unqualified Workers
Every worker should receive a basic education on electrical safety risks. That provides employees with a fundamental understanding of common hazards related to electricity and how to prevent them. But both OSHA and NFPA 70E make a distinction between unqualified and qualified workers and how they must be trained.
In both cases, only a qualified worker may engage in energized work involving 50 volts or more. High-voltage safety training permits properly educated and experienced professionals to deal with the high level of danger that comes from operating on and near highly energized parts.
Unqualified workers can’t work on major energized systems. But they may still be exposed to risks due to live currents. Unqualified individuals still need to recognize and avoid dangers that could lead to serious injuries or death.
Online education can help all employees stay safe on the jobsite. We offer several courses addressing basic safety principles and a variety of more advanced concepts. All of our online programs can be completed 100% online from any device at your own pace.
Basic Awareness-Level Education
At the most basic level, every worker should be trained in foundational principles that will mitigate risks and prevent accidents. An awareness-level program, like our Recognizing Electrical Hazards course, helps students identify primary hazards, understand general training requirements for qualified and unqualified employees and follow best practices for circuit protection, tagging, guarding live parts and lockouts.
Since electricity can be found on any worksite in any industry, everyone will benefit from an awareness-level education on the dangers it can present. For those who interact directly with energized equipment and high-voltage machinery, we also offer more in-depth classes that cover specific topics.
If you’re interested in learning more about NFPA 70E, we suggest our Applying Electrical Standards certificate course. This class is designed for employees, supervisors and managers who work with live circuits. It teaches the details of training requirements for qualified and unqualified workers, explores relevant OSHA requirements and warns of the consequences of ignoring government and industry best practices.
For a closer look at relevant regulations, consider the OSHA Electrical for Construction certificate course. More than a simple list of prohibitions and requirements, this class focuses on topics like grounding, switchboards, enclosures, circuits operating above 600 volts and other helpful details designed to help construction workers identify and correct hazards in the workplace.
Employers are required to implement and document a formal safety program under NFPA 70E 110.1(A). Our Using Electrical Safety Programs certificate course provides an overview of those programs, including the importance of planning, the elements of a successful program, arc flash prevention and personal protective equipment. This class is useful for employees who must create, implement or follow an NFPA-compliant protection program.
Tagging and locking energized equipment is an important element of a safe workplace. Our Electrical Safety and Lockout/Tagout course teaches students how tagouts and lockouts can protect personnel from unexpected machinery operation, stored energy discharge and other dangers that can arise while working on energized equipment.