Ontario electrical safety record improves, but high-risk behaviour continues: ESA

Despite a 38 per cent decrease in electrical fatalities in the last five years, Ontarians — including professional electricians — continue to be injured and killed in electrical safety incidents, according to a new report released by the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA).

More than 70 per cent of all incidents occur in four areas: electrical workers, contact with overhead power lines, the misuse of electrical products and electrical fires caused by old or faulty electrical wiring. ESA research shows there continues to be a gap between actual risk and perception of risk when it comes to these four areas.

Electricians continue to be critically injured on the job when working on energized electrical panels or commercial lighting systems. Electrical workers account for 28 per cent of electrical-related workplace fatalities from 2003 to 2012, according to the ESA. Electrical workers and those who hire them do not perceive these jobs to be high-risk, the ESA’s research reveals. Some electricians end up "working live," which is a technically improper procedure in many cases.

"Electrical workers continue to be injured or killed — in some cases because they do not appreciate or have become complacent about the risk, and in others because they feel pressured by their customer or employer," said ESA chief public safety officer Scott Saint. "We need to better understand these perceptions so we can change them. Changing people’s misperceptions is critical to our goal of eliminating electrical-related deaths and injuries."

While electrical-related fatalities have decreased, even a small number of incidents can drastically alter the current safety trend.

"Workers and members of the public must understand the risks and take proper precautions," insisted Saint. "Vigilance is the key to safety."

Power line contact continues to be an area of concern, accounting for almost half of all electrical-related fatalities in the past ten years. On average, three people die and five are critically injured each year in Ontario due to contact with overhead power lines. While most members of the public know a downed power line is dangerous, consumer surveys indicate the majority fail to consider that they may come into contact with a live wire when doing yard work and chores, like trimming trees or cleaning eaves troughs.