Electrical Safety


Working with or around electricity can present hazards to the body that can cause serious injury and death.  It is important to understand the basic principals of this energy source and how to recognize and protect against the hazards it can create.


This guide addresses personal electrical safety related work practices as it relates to the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Standard (IOSH).  It does not address building electrical safety and design systems or utility distribution sites.  The guide is specifically intended for University employees whose activities come into contact with exposed parts of electrical circuits operating at 50 volts or more to ground.  The guide is further geared toward preventing electric shock or other injuries resulting from either direct or indirect electrical contacts when work is performed near or on equipment or circuits which are or may become energized.

Policy & Regulation

University of Iowa Operations Manual, Part III Human Resources, Division II Standards and Ethics, Chapter 16.4d Policy on Ethics and Responsibilities for University of Iowa Staff.
IOSH General Industry Regulations, 29 CFR 1910.331 through 1910.360, Safety-Related Work Practices, Subpart S – Electrical.
IOSH Construction Industry Regulations, 29 CFR 1926. 416 and 417, Safety-Related Work Practices, Subpart K – Electrical.


Material that allows electrical current to easily flow through it.
Energized Parts/Equipment
Electrical current that is present within a circuit or piece of equipment.
Exposed Parts
Capable of being inadvertently touched or approached nearer than the safe distance by a person.
GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit-Interrupter)
A device that interrupts the electrical circuit to the load when a fault of current to ground exceeds a predetermined value that is less than that required to operate the overcurrent protective device of the supply circuit.
Qualified Person
An individual who has sufficient knowledge and training in avoiding the electrical hazards or working on or near exposed energized parts.
Unqualified Person
An individual with little or no knowledge or training in avoiding electrical hazards or working on or near exposed energized parts.


Deans, Directors and Department Heads are responsible to:

  • Actively support these procedures within individual units.
  • Ensure an environment where employees are encouraged to follow these procedures.

Supervisors are responsible to:

  • Implement these procedures.
  • Assure that staff is aware of University and department procedures, instructed on the details of implementation, and provided with training, personal protective equipment, and methods of control.
  • Maintain documentation and records as required in these procedures.

Employees are responsible to:

  • Comply with these procedures and any further safety recommendations provided by supervisors.
  • Conduct assigned tasks in a safe manner, wear appropriate personal protective equipment, and obtain training and information prior to using tools.   


The following information is a brief highlight of requirements found in the IOSH Electrical Standards section under “Safety-Related Work Practices”.  The entire Electrical Subpart S in the General Industry Regulations and Subpart K in the Construction Regulations are not mentioned in this guideline, but should be reviewed by departments as applicable to their operations.
Highlights of Safety-Related Work Practices:
Employee Training:  Employees who are at risk of electric shock that is not reduced to a safer level by electrical installation requirements are required to be trained.  This includes both qualified and unqualified employees.  IOSH lists the following occupational groups to be included in this training: Blue Collar Supervisors, Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Electrical and Electronic Equipment Assemblers, Electrical and Electronic Technicians, Electricians, Industrial Machine Operators, Material Handling Equipment Operators, Mechanics and Repairers, Painters, Riggers and Roustabouts, Stationary Engineers, and Welders.

  • The training must consist of material found in the IOSH electrical standard relating to safety-related work practices as well as any additional requirements for unqualified employees that pertain to their specific job assignments.
  • Workers in these or similar groups do not need to be trained if their work or the work of those that they supervise does not bring them or the employees they supervise close enough to exposed parts of circuits operating at 50 volts or more to ground for a hazard to exist.
  • When de-energizing parts or circuits, proper lockout/tagout procedures must be followed from the department’s established lockout/tagout program. 
  • Working on or near exposed energized parts should be evaluated for the following:
    • Work on energized equipment
    • Work performed near overhead lines
    • Illumination of work area
    • Confined or enclosed work spaces
    • Conductive Materials and Equipment
    • Portable ladders
    • Conductive Apparel
    • Housekeeping Duties
    • Interlocks
  • Evaluation of Portable Electric Equipment:
    • Visual inspection performed for cord and plug equipment.
    • Equipment grounding.  For construction activities, a ground-fault protection program in place using ground fault circuit interrupters or a written assured equipment grounding conductor program.
  • Personnel Protection:
    • Proper selection of personal protective equipment.
    • Proper protective equipment and tools selected and used.
    • Safety alert sign and tags used as needed.

Related Programs or Procedures

Assistance and Resources

EHS is available for consultation in assessing electrical safety work-related practices.  Special situations may also require outside expert assistance. Departments should also work with EHS during the administrative annual review to evaluate their plan, as it relates to this program.
For additional resources see also the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 70E, Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces.


updated 04/2012