Electrical Safety

A Message About Electrical Safety, Lock Out Tag Out, Choose The Right Tool

A Shocking Undersea Tale B-168

Did you know that the South American electric eel can grow to five feet long, weigh as much as 40 pounds and produce an electrical discharge that can stun a diver?

It’s a fact! The South American eel is not really an eel at all but a true fish that is related to the carp.  It has three electric organs: a small one at the tip of its tail used for navigation and another small one used as a trigger for the third blockbuster organ that produces the lightning-like discharge that kills its prey.

This strange creature, one of more than 200 species of fish, uses electricity by generating and discharging currents either in bursts or steady electric fields around its body. Depending on the species, they may use this energy to find and attack their prey, for defense or for communication and navigation.

These skates, rays, eels and other unusual denizens of the deep live and die by the effectiveness of their in-house batteries.  Scientists have discovered that sharks, porpoises and some other species have extremely sensitive electric receptors that help them detect and avoid their high- powered salt-water neighbors.

Just like the receptors that protect sharks against the South American eel, we have our own systems in place to keep electricity where it belongs.

*Always lock out and tag out. We have lock out systems that are virtually foolproof when everyone follows the proper procedure. Disregarding these systems can lead to injuries and fatalities.

*Look before you reach.  You might not see energized parts, so don’t reach into machinery.  Make sure there is adequate lightning and scan the area carefully before you put your hands there.

*Use protective shields, barriers and insulating materials.  These safety precautions can help prevent accidental contact that could result in tragedy.

*Check power tools. Don’t use power tools with broken plugs or defective insulation and always make sure tools are properly grounded before you use them.

*Watch out for water. Never use electrical equipment or tools in a wet environment without the proper protection or an insulating mat.

Electricity can strike in a flash! Beware!

You risk shock, burns, explosions and fire.

*Copyright 2003 Harkins Safety (B168)



A Message About Eliminating Hazards And Preventing Accidents

The America’s Cup

It began in 1841, a full 45 years before the Modern Olympics. It attracts the top sailors and yacht designers from around the world. It’s named after the first yacht to win the trophy, the schooner America.

Yes, the America’s Cup is the biggest, most famous yacht race in the world-the Super Bowl and World Series of sailing all in one-with a fascinating history. In 1851, the schooner America raced 15 yachts around the Isle of Wight near Great Britain, and the America won. Queen Victoria asked who was second. The reply? “There is no second, your Majesty.”

Thus the lore of the America’s Cup was born. The British, stung by the loss, tried to win back the trophy, but the New York Yacht Club remained unbeaten for 25 challenges over 113 years, the longest winning streak in sailing’s history.

One of the most famous challengers was Scottish tea baron Sir Thomas Lipton, who attempted five unsuccessful challenges between 1899 and 1930, all in yachts named Shamrock. After World War II, the New York Yacht Club retained its winning streak in eight more races, from 1958 to 1980. But in 1983, the Australia II won easily over Dennis Connor’s Star & Stripes. Disappointed but unbowed, Connor returned with a newly designed boat, a new race plan and renewed confidence. In 1983, he prevailed and returned the cup to the New York Yacht Club.

By refusing to be sidetracked and keeping his eyes on the prize. Dennis Connor came back a winner. When we’re charting our course to safety, we need the same determination. Safety is vital to you, your coworkers, your company and your family. That’s why we have to stay alert to hazards–from keeping work areas clean and orderly to eliminating fire hazards to working safely with electricity to lifting and carrying properly. There’s a safe way to do the job and it’s your responsibility to know it. That way, you’re a winner every single day.

Will America be the winner in the upcoming 33rd America’s Cup? Time will tell. The race is scheduled to take place between 2009 and 2011 and promises boats that are bigger, sleeker, lighter and faster than ever. But one thing’s for sure—just as the captain and crew need to train, plan and prepare, we need to do the same on the job to stay safe. Because working safely every day is our idea of smooth sailing.


*Copyright 2008 Harkins Safety  B229



A Message About Fire Safety, Housekeeping, MSDS’s & SDS’s


In a state know for wildfires, this one was off the charts.  It caused the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents.  It was responsible for millions in property damage.  It threatened entire cities.  It endangered over 6,000 firefighters.

The fire was first spotted on a Wednesday in a forest south of Prescott, Arizona.  Strong winds and dry terrain stoked the blaze as firefighters and forest crews sprang into action. The fire raged and within days it consumed 1,000 acres spreading to within three miles of downtown Prescott.  Over 1,500 residents evacuated as the fire waged war on southern Arizona.

Meanwhile in eastern Arizona another wildfire rose up in Show Low.  It roared across a 330,000 acre area. As firefighters and forest workers battled the blaze, their worst fear seemed unavoidable.  The two separate wildfires were heading toward each other and within eight days, they merged into one fearsome conflagration of flame, ash and smoke.

Devastation reigned.  The American Red Cross provided food and shelter to displaced residents.  The President came to witness the destruction and the federal government designated the site a disaster area as firefighters battled the blaze.  More voracious than ever, the fire continued its rampage of destruction.

Cooler weather and the firebreaks eventually began to have an effect. Five weeks after it began, the wildfire was starting to be contained. But the toll was sobering.  This fire, the largest wildfire in Arizona history, decimated 517 square miles, an area larger than Los Angeles.  It reduced 423 homes to ash and cinder. It caused 30,000 evacuations.

Whether in a forest, at work or even in your own home, the power and fury of fire can destroy in minutes what took months or years to build.  Your best plan is to fight back with prevention.

*Dispose of trash, flammable fluids, oily rags and other waste properly.

*Handle extension cords and electrical equipment with care.

*Remove frayed cords, replace damaged plugs and don’t overload electrical circuits.

*Smoke only in designated areas, and make sure cigarettes, etc., are completely extinguished.

*Know where fire extinguishers are located and how to use them.


*Copyright 2002 Harkins Safety B157



A Message About SDS, MSDS Electrical Safety And Housekeeping

Fire Watcher

Like the lighthouse operator and long-distance runner, the fire watcher is surrounded in romance and lore. These solitary figures spend hour after hour, day after day, month after month perched high atop our nation’s forests searching for any sign of impending forest fire.  How did the job of fire watcher begin? Here’s the story.

The first fire lookout was built in 1876 by the Southern Pacific Railroad on Red Mountain near Donner Summit to watch for train fires. Then in 1905, the U.S. Forest Service adopted the idea.  They followed the example of the railroad and began using fire watchers to create an organized fire prevention and detection system.

The Forest Service built a network of forest fire lookout stations across the U.S. At first, the stations were little more than campsites.  The fire watcher would ride there on horseback, make his observations and travel to the next site. Later, crow’s-nest platforms were built atop the highest trees.  The fire watcher would stand vigil, sometimes for hours or days at a time.  If a fire was spotted, the fire watcher often became a firefighter, jumping on his horse or hiking to the fire to help put it out. By 1914 the job of fire watcher was more defined and these solitary workers spent their days in live-in cabins built on top of huge towers.

In the 1930’s during the Great Depression, government programs to put people back to work included the Civilian Conservation Corps. With the help of the CCC, fire watch towers began springing up across the county; over 8,000 towers were built and staffed by full-time fire watchers.

During World War II, the fire watchers’ keen observation skills were used to look out for enemy aircraft.  The fire watchers staffed aircraft observation decks 365 days a year until the war ended.

Although many fire watchers were phased out in the 1970s in favor of airplane observation, we need to stay vigilant when it comes to fire prevention.  Being a fire watcher is just as important today as it was many years ago.

*Look for ways to prevent electrical fires.  Check for frayed wires and replace them.  Always use the correct fuses, check ground wires and keep combustibles away from machines.

*Look for ways to avoid chemical fires. Always read MSDS’s, SDS’s and labels, keep flammable liquids away from ignition sources, check compressed gas cylinders for leaks and always store cylinders securely. Practice welding only in areas with fire-resistant floors.

*Look for ways to keep your work area safe.  Keep machines free of dust and grease.  Dispose of combustibles like oily rags properly.  Keep walkways, stairs and fire doors free of debris.


*Copyright 2005 Harkins Safety B204



A Message About Electrical Safety – Lock Out Tag Out

Lock It Out

When electricity was in its infancy, a battle between inventors forever changed the way we use our most popular power source.  Here’s the story.

In 1882, all the electricity in the country was supplied by direct current, thanks to the inventiveness and industriousness of Thomas Edison.  Then in 1884 Edison hired the brilliant Croatian scientist, inventor and theoretician Nikola Tesla to sort out the problems with the DC system.  Tesla saved Edison $100,000, -over $1 million by today’s standards.  However, the scientists had a falling out.

Tesla left Edison’s company and went on to invent a better system, alternating current and eventually signed a contract with George Westinghouse.  AC offered several advantages.  For example, it could be stepped up and transmitted over long distances on thin wires, while DC required a large power plant every square mile and very thick cables.

Because Edison was heavily invested in direct current, he attempted to discredit Tesla. Edison staged “experiments” involving animal electrocution to try to show that Tesla’s system was dangerous.  Tesla retaliated with his own demonstrations to show that alternating current was controllable. He used his invention, the Tesla Coil, to generate huge lightning bolts to the amazement of his supporters.

In the end, AC won out, and Tesla was vindicated.  He also realized his dream of bringing affordable, abundant electric power to homes and businesss through- out the country.  Although they did not agree on the merits of AC versus DC, both Tesla and Edison knew that electricity is a powerful force to be used only with great caution and respect.  The same holds true today.

*When you follow lock-out and tag out each and every time machinery is shut down for repair or maintenance.

*Before starting work on an engine, motor, lathe, saw or any power driven equipment, take all of the steps required to neutralize the power sources.

*Place locks and warning tags on all switch boxes, valves and controls.

*Clearly print complete information on the tag so that others know when, where and why the equipment was locked out.

Short-Circuit An Accident…Always Lock Out and Tag Out

* Copyright 2002 Harkins Safety (B-155)



A Message About Electrical Safety

An Idea Strikes

Have you ever watched lightning during a storm and wondered about its power? If so, you’ve embarked on the same scientific exploration that propelled Ben Franklin more than 200 years ago.  Franklin was so enthralled with electricity that its study was his lifelong hobby.

In fact, it was Franklin who invented the lightning rod. In one of his experiments, he observed that a sharp iron needle would conduct electricity away from a charged metal sphere.  He further theorized that lightning might be drawn away from buildings by elevating an iron rod grounded to the earth and the lightning rod was born.

But Ben didn’t stop there.  He later had a theory that lightning was actually electricity.  In June of 1752, he grew impatient waiting for the steeple on top of Christ’s Church to be completed for his experiment.  The steeple would act as a lightning rod.  So he thought that a kite would be able to get as close to the storm clouds.  He tied a metal key to the kite string, and tied the string to an insulating silk ribbon for his hand.  When Franklin saw the lightning deliver its charge to the key, he knew immediately that it was a form of electricity.  And he knew its power.

Upon receiving an electrical shock during one experiment, he described it as a “   universal blow throughout my whole body from head to foot…and a violent quick shaking of my body…”

Ben took huge risks in his experiments and fortunately never received a fatal shock.  But we know that electricity is a powerful force that can injure and kill.  We have to treat it with the utmost respect.  Always check electrical equipment and power cords for damage.  Make sure electrical equipment and machinery are properly grounded.  Always lock out and tag out, it you’re the worker authorized to do so.  Check to ensure that equipment is powered down before you begin maintenance and repairs.

Franklin was obsessed with the idea of electricity.  In 1749, he described the concept of a battery in a letter to a friend, but doubted if it would ever be of use. Like Franklin, we should think about electricity too.  Not by conducting experiments but by staying aware of how to safely work with electricity. Electricity is so common that we can become too comfortable around it. That’s a mistake.  Stay alert to the very real dangers of electricity.  It’s one of our greatest allies but also one of our greatest threats.

Beware if Electricity’s There!

*Copyright 2008 Harkins Safety  B-233




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