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Town Talk: Protect yourself against electrical accidents on the job

Job sites, especially construction sites, usually have many workers doing multiple tasks at the same time. Since many of these tasks are routine, it is easy to downplay the safety risks involved. New Ulm Public Utilities (NUPU) urges contractors, or anyone doing construction work, to take appropriate measures to keep themselves safe.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, construction workers account for 6 percent of the U.S. workforce, but 20 percent of the fatalities — the largest of any industry. The majority of electrical injuries on the job site are caused by contact with power lines.

Before you start work, locate all power lines, and take these important steps to ensure that you do not land among the statistics:

Keep power tools, ladders, rigging and yourself at least 10 feet away from power lines at all times.

If a machine or ladder comes close or touches a power line, do not touch it. Anyone touching or even standing nearby is at risk of electrocution.

If you are on equipment that makes contact with a power line — stay put. Do not attempt to climb off the equipment; you would become the path to ground for the electricity. Call for help and warn others in the area to stay back until the line is de-energized.

Always remember — low voltage does not mean low hazard. Have the NUPU’s phone number (507-359-8264) on hand in case of an emergency. If there is one, ensure that you know the location and address of the problem before you call, and be able to communicate the degree of urgency.

The NUPU urges all workers to remember a few simple but life-saving rules when working around or using electrical tools:

• Check the cords of your power tools before you use them. If they are damaged, do not use them or try to repair them yourself. Tag all damaged tools as damaged so that everyone else knows not to use them.

• Always unplug your tools before servicing or cleaning them. Ensure that they are turned off before you disconnect them to prevent accidental starting.

• Only use tools that have ground prongs in three-pronged outlets. Never use a plug that has its ground prong removed.

• Keep your work area dry when working with anything electric. Remember, water + electricity = danger.

• Consider marking your tools to make them easily identifiable to discourage theft. Brightly colored paint is an easy way to identify the tools as yours or your company’s and to deter would-be thieves from taking them. Lock up tools at the end of the day.

The NUPU urges you to take an active role in making your workplace safe, and to encourage your coworkers to do the same.

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Editor’s Note: The City of New Ulm presents a weekly column highlighting activities in different departments in the city government. Once a month the city will answer questions from readers. Questions on New Ulm city issues can be sent to comments@ci.new-ulm.mn.us.

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