• A SECOND LINE OF DEFENCE TO ELECTRICAL HAZARDS

A SECOND LINE OF DEFENCE TO ELECTRICAL HAZARDS

A SECOND LINE OF DEFENCE TO ELECTRICAL HAZARDS

Understanding the role of foot protection to electrical hazards

By Dr Caleb Wegener PhD (Biomechanics), B App Sc (Pod) Hons

Footwear Research & Innovation, Mack


Contact with electricity is the third largest cause of death in the construction industry accounting for 15% of all fatalities in the industry1.  As would be expected electricians account for 49% of the construction industry fatalities due to electrocution. However, other trades are also at a substantial risk of electrocution because of exposure to electrical cables and power tools on construction sites1.

Electrical hazards are serious threats in the workplace that are invisible to the worker. While most workers understand the high risks involved with electricity and treat it with due respect many of the hazards are not easily identifiable. Some construction sites for example, are especially dangerous due to temporary electrical supply and the use of electrical power tools that can easily expose or sever electrical cables.

The majority of health and safety personnel only think of safety footwear providing protection to impact injuries in the toe region. However, international safety footwear standards also provide protective features to other risks that occur in the workplace including electrical hazards.

FOOTWEAR

Electrical shock resistant footwear (EH) can provide a secondary source of protection to workers who accidentally come in contact with live electrical circuits, electrically energized conductors, parts or apparatus. EH certified footwear is tested to ASTM F2413-11 and is required to resist 14 000 V (rms) at 60Hz for 1min under dry conditions. EH footwear however, needs to be maintained in good condition to remain an effective second line of defence to electrical shock as the electrical insulating properties can deteriorate when the footwear has an excessively worn outsole, and/or has been exposed  to wet and humid conditions. Due to these potential changes in the level of protection provided by EH footwear during wear, it is essential that workers consider EH footwear as an additional line of defence to accidental contact and not part of their primary protection plans.

 

Fig 1. The Mack Titan II is electrical shock resistant

and completely metal free making it ideal electricians and construction workers. 

Safety footwear typically contains metal components in the safety toecap, shank and eyelets that have the potential to conduct electricity if exposed. It is important to note that these items do not typically comprise a specific safety risk to electrical shock when the footwear is in good condition as they are typically covered with non-conductive materials. However, excessively worn upper or lining materials can expose metal componentry potentially reducing the effectiveness of EH footwear. Conversely, EH footwear can be manufactured to be completely metal free while still providing the same levels of protection from impact or crush injuries by utilising composite toecaps, non-metal eyelets and TPU shanks. This means that even if the leather on the footwear happens to be split and the toecap is exposed, the toecap will not conduct electricity.

CONCLUSION

EH footwear can be an effective second line of defence against accidental electric shock. This is particularly beneficial in workplaces such as construction sites where it is difficult to control workers exposure to electrical hazards. EH footwear should be monitored and replaced regularly to ensure that it provides a level of protection comparable to those provided in the test environment.  

 REFERENCES

1. Work-related Injuries and Fatalities in Construction, Australia, 2003 to 2013. June 2015, Safe Work Australia, Canberra, Australia.