Two workers checking electrical safety

Electricity is present everywhere and even a small negligence can result in electrical fatality. Workplaces and Job sites are at highest risk of causing electrical accidents. Every year, more than 5,000 employees get electrocuted in the US. One of the causes of electrocution is improper grounding of the equipment and here comes the role of the GFCI.

A ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) is a fast-acting circuit breaker which can detect small imbalances in the circuit caused by current leakage to the ground and turn off the electricity at a fraction of a second. The GFCI outlet matches the amount of current that is going into an electrical device against the amount of current returning from the device along the electrical path.

Whenever the amount going in differs from the returning amount, even by approximately 5 milliamps, the GFCI interrupts the electric power within as little as 1/40th of a second. In short, the GFCI stops dangerous amounts of current from injuring or killing the workers using the equipment. Thus, the Occupational Safety and health Administration (OSHA) says if you want to keep your employees safe you must include GFCI protection in your program. It is critical that all employers develop and implement an effective safety program that protects their workers and prevent fatal electrical accidents.

How GFCI installation can enhance electrical safety

When any electrical device is plugged into outlet, the GFCI compares the amount of electricity flowing from receptacle to device and system’s neutral wire. If it detects any difference between both current values it stops the flow of current.

  • Help prevent electrocution: It switches off the electricity whenever any unwanted current flows through grounded item and prevents electric shock or electrocution.
  • Help prevent electric fire: Whenever excess current flows through the wire GFCI shuts off the current and thereby mitigates electric fire.
  • Stop electricity in damp environment: In wet conditions installation of GFCI is very important as it stops current to flow in such places and hence prevent undesired accidents.

Types of GFCI

Let us look at three types of GFCI that are generally used at construction sites:

GFCI Receptable

This incorporates a GFCI device within one or more receptacle outlets. These devices are quite popular due to their low cost.

Portable GFCI

A portable GFCI that can plug into a standard receptacle comes in numerous styles and is easy to transport. Some of these are designed to plug into the existing non-GFCI outlets or they can be connected with a cord and plug arrangement. The portable GFCI also incorporates a no-voltage device that can disconnect the power to the outlets if any supply conductor is open. All the units that are approved for outdoor use will be in enclosures that are suitable for the outdoor working conditions. In case the enclosures would be exposed to rain, they must be listed as waterproof.

Cord-Connected

This type of GFCI is an attachment plug that is incorporated into the GFCI module. It protects the cord and any equipment that is attached to the cord. It incorporates a no-voltage release device that will disconnect power to the load if any supply conductor is open.

How you can protect your workers

All companies need to follow OSHA ground-fault protection rules and regulations that are deemed necessary for employee safety and health. Therefore, it is imperative that you provide either (i) GFCIs on the job sites for receptacle outlets in use and not as a part of the permanent wiring of the building or (ii) have a scheduled and recorded assured equipment grounding conductor program on construction sites which covers all cord sets, receptacles which are not part of the permanent wiring of the building or structure, and equipment connected by cord and plug which are available for use or used by the employees.

You must provide the approved GFCIs for all l20-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacle outlets on construction sites that are not a part of the permanent wiring of the building or structure and that are in use by employees. If there is any receptacle that is installed as a part of the permanent wiring of the building, then you must provide GFCI protection.

Electrocution remains the fourth leading cause of work-related death for construction workers, with one worker electrocuted on the job every day in the US. Although OHS professionals are not necessarily skilled electricians, OSHA provides an online guide to electrical safety for non-electricians that describes scenarios in which equipment like GFCIs are essential - for saving lives, GFCIs should be seen as just as important as smoke detectors.

Ensure electrical safety with regular inspections

Performing regulator inspections of the workplace can identify potential hazards or noncompliance issues that can be solved to mitigate risk, a process made significantly easier through the use of  management software. See Pro-Sapien's Audits & Inspections software on SharePoint in action today.

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Jeson Pitt works with the marketing department of D&F Liquidators and regularly writes to share his knowledge while enlightening people about electrical products and solving their electrical dilemmas. He's got the industry insights that you can count on along with years of experience in the field. Jeson lives in Hayward, CA and loves to explore different cuisines that the food trucks in the Bay area have to offer.