If you’re looking for a future-proof career, training as an electrician could be a great choice. Installing new electrics for new buildings, as well as maintaining and upgrading electricals in existing buildings, means that the demand for electricians is set to grow nearly 10% over the coming decade.
However, when it comes to working as an electrician, many people are worried about the potential dangers. After all, electricity can be lethal, and handling electrical fittings up close requires the right tools, equipment, knowledge and precautions.
So, is being an electrician dangerous? In this article, we’ll take an objective look at the risks associated with this rewarding profession.
Risk Associated with Being an Electrician
Compared to sitting in an office all day, an electrician faces certain work-related risks during their daily duties. Here we’ll take a closer look at them, from the rarer but most serious ones, to the more common but less serious risks.
The biggest worry about working as an electrician is the risk of being electrocuted.
If the proper precautions aren’t taken when installing new cables or working with poorly maintained fittings, there is a risk the electrician will come into contact with the electrical current.
When an electric shock passes through the body, it can knock a person unconscious or cause cardiac arrest.
Fire and Explosions
There are a few ways that electrical work can lead to fires.
Fire and explosions can easily occur when electric work is being done around flammable vapors or gasses in a closed space like indoors. The electricity provides the spark that ignites the gas and triggers an explosion.
It’s also possible for small fires to occur when doing repairs on electricity supply lines if high voltage electricity lines come into contact with each other.
Faulty electrical outlets, old outdated appliances, overloaded electricity cables or poor installation can also cause fires.
Electrical burns are the most common nonfatal injury. The causes are similar to those for electrocution and fires, but in the case of burns, the electricity damages the skin but doesn’t manage to cause a full electrocution.
These burns are categorized into three groups: electricity burns, arc burns and thermal contact burns. Arc burns are the most damaging and don’t require physical contact with the source of electricity.
Risk of Falling
As an electrician, it’s often necessary to work in elevated areas, and this brings with it a risk of falling. Examples include working on a rooftop, attic, or on overhead power lines.
As well as the risk of being so high up, electricians are reaching for and operating various tools at this height, which increases the risk of slipping and falling. This calls for any electrician to assess every job site, prepare well, and use the right gear and tools.
Exposure to Toxic Materials
Electrical maintenance often involves accessing places that aren’t regularly inhabited or cleaned, and this brings a different set of occupational hazards.
For example, on a renovation site, an electrician may be exposed to airborne contaminants such as dust, asbestos and silica.
Asbestos was used in the past as electrical insulation material in high-temperature applications such as conductors and chutes in circuit breakers.
Even molds and rodent droppings in the environment can be a health hazard.
Cuts and Abrasions
Using sharp metal tools goes hand-in-hand with a risk of cuts and abrasions.
Whether as a result of the wire strippers, screwdrivers or other tools the electrician is using, or related to metal fittings and cables that they’re tackling, minor accidental injuries are common.
It’s very important to wear safety glasses whenever there is a potential hazard from flying particles or pieces of wire. Also, be sure to use the right tool for the right job to avoid your hands or fingers being pinched.
Sometimes you’ll need to squeeze into tight spaces to work on wiring, such as in crawl spaces, attics or basements. There are several risks associated with working in a tight or confined space.
Getting into and out of the space can be challenging, and there may even be a risk of getting stuck in the crawl space.
You may also find you need to adopt an uncomfortable position to reach the electrics, which can put unusual strain on parts of your body. You also risk banging your head or other body parts as you adjust your position.
Strain and Stress on the Body
Not only is the work of an electrician physically demanding, but having to handle equipment at awkward angles and under tension can strain the body.
Cramps can be a common symptom, where the contracted muscles restrict the flow of the blood to the hands or other body parts.
As well as potentially leading to work-related musculoskeletal injuries, this strain and stress make it more likely for accidents to happen that can lead to more serious injuries.
Working Long Hours
Electrical malfunctions don’t work to a 9-to-5 schedule, and nor do most electricians.
Long hours are the norm, either due to responding to emergencies or working to complete a project in line with a customer’s expectations.
When you work long hours without a break, your concentration is likely to be impaired. You can easily miss a procedural step that can lead to an injury.
Needless to say, many accidents occur when fatigue sets in.
When you’re tackling a complicated problem, it’s easy to forget the routine things like taking a drink of water. This is especially true when working at height or in tight spaces, where stopping for a drink is impractical.
Combined with high temperatures in some of these areas, and limited airflow, it’s easy to get dehydrated on the job.
Not only is dehydration a risk in itself, but it also impacts your concentration and makes other injuries more likely.
So, is Being an Electrician Dangerous?
Yes, being an electrician can be a dangerous job, which is why electrical installation and repair should not be attempted by anyone lacking the proper training.
Most of the injuries associated with the work of an electrician happen when instructions are not followed.
A professional electrician will assess the site and ensure the necessary tools are ready and in working condition before starting any work. It’s also important to ensure personal protection by wearing protective gear at all times.
Working as an electrician is a rewarding job, but it’s important to respect the risks associated with electricity and take proper precautions.
As an aspiring electrician, it’s important to undertake training in the theory and practical aspects of electrical safety.
For example, in an electrical apprenticeship, you’ll learn the safety precautions to take before handling electrical equipment.
Knowing how to use the right tools in the right way also reduces the risk and lets you get the job done effectively and safely.