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The impact of human performance in the electrical construction sector • Electrical Safety 360, September 2018

September 25, 2018 | By Mike Doherty

September 25, 2018 — The 2019 Electrical Safety Workshop (ESW) will be held in Jacksonville, Fla., from Mar. 4 to 8, 2019, at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverside. Mark your calendar now to save those dates, talk to your manager and get this item into your 2019 budget proposals.

It will be my 19th ESW in a row. I have highlighted the value of this event—or, as I like to call it, the Super Bowl of electrical safety—many times in this column.  

The IEEE IAS Electrical Safety Committee (ESafC) sponsors the ESW. ESafC’s scope covers all matters within IAS’ scope that specifically relate to occupational hazards of electrical energy. Topics include, but are not limited to: hazard phenomena, inherently safer design, work practices, hazard mitigation and electrical safety management. The ESafC has created subcommittees to help fulfil their mission, including the construction subcommittee, which I chair.

But more than anything, the ESW is dedicated to changing electrical safety culture around the world.


I have presented many times at the ESW and will have the distinct pleasure of co-presenting in March with Behzad Esmaeili, PhD, an assistant professor at the Volgenau School of Engineering at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

We met in October 2017 at an Electrical Safety in Construction Workshop in Washington, D.C., which was sponsored and led by the National Academy of Construction (NAC) and ESW. As the chair of the construction subcommittee, I was very involved with organizing the event. Electrical incidents among workers in the construction industry make up a significant proportion of the total number of incidents globally. Indeed, many others around the world have realized that electrical hazards in the construction sector are significant and prevalent.1, 2

The NAC’s purpose is to establish a body of acknowledged construction industry leaders, who are elected to it. The academy provides a networking system for past and present members of the construction industry and recognizes fresh and novel industry achievement with appropriate awards programs.

The importance of human performance

In Washington, Behzad and I discussed the possibility of working together on the topic of ‘human performance’ (HP) in the electrical construction sector and its potential impact on incidents and injuries. Our CSA Z462 technical committee (TC) developed and published Annex U, Human Performance and Workplace Electrical Safety, for the 2015 standard. In my opinion, it is a world-class document.

HP is a critical component of workplace safety. In fact, the root cause of any electrical incident can almost always be traced back to it.

At the 2019 ESW, we will discuss the need for human-factor best practices to mitigate hazards. Here is part of our abstract as approved for the conference:

The construction industry is one of the most hazardous industries worldwide and contact with electric energy is a major cause of injury and death among construction workers. Therefore, finding innovative ways to identify, assess and mitigate electrical hazards in the early stages of a project would save lives and prevent injury.

It is well-known that unsafe acts caused by human error are the main reasons for up to 80 per cent of accidents across various industries. Therefore, this paper aims to provide empirical evidence regarding the effectiveness of human-factor best practices in curbing the frequency, probability and severity of accidents.

An online questionnaire has been developed and distributed among various electrical sectors to determine the effectiveness of each practice in reducing the frequency, probability and severity of these incidents.

The results will be summarized and guidelines provided to help the electrical sector implement human-performance best practices more effectively. It is expected that the results of this study and paper will accelerate and transform current injury prevention practices, as well as overcome some of the barriers in the electrical workplace.

Please consider participating in this anonymous and strictly confidential online survey at tinyurl.com/yavrftap. Your thoughts and comments are truly appreciated and valued.


1. Number of Allowed WSIB Lost Time Electrical Injury Claims by Sector in Ontario, 2007-2016. tinyurl.com/ycsh3lao.

2. Severity of electrical accidents in the construction industry in Spain. tinyurl.com/y8jk5kvc.

A subject-matter expert on electrical safety, Mike Doherty is an independent electrical safety consultant and trainer for eHazard in Canada, the president and owner of Blue Arc Electrical Safety Technologies Inc., and now technical advisor for eWorkSAFE in Canada. He is a licensed electrician and an IEEE senior member, and has served as the Technical Committee chair for CSA Z462 since its inception in 2006. His specialties include electrical safety management, consult- ing, training, auditing and electrical incident investigations. Mike can be reached at mike.doherty@e-hazard.com.

This article originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Electrical Business Magazine.

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