By the time you’re reading this, chances are you have flipped an electric switch to turn on a light, plugged in a coffee pot to get your day started, and opened the refrigerator rummaging for your next meal. Obviously, these daily routines require electricity on demand, which, during everyday life, goes unnoticed. That is a good thing, but also can breed complacency when it comes to electrical safety.
May is Electrical Safety Month and it’s one of many opportunities for Kansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. to raise awareness with our readers and the general public on how to avoid potential electrical hazards. Part of KEC’s mission is to spread safety awareness, not just this month but year-round. From the high-voltage safety demonstrations co-op linemen perform each year at the Kansas State Fair to your co-op’s safety features and infographics published monthly in Kansas Country Living, electric co-ops seek to keep the public safe around electricity.
Electrical safety is a 24/7 endeavor we take seriously, and the reason KEC launched the statewide electrical safety campaign, “Deadliest Safety Catch” in fall 2020 that highlights real-world electrical safety hazards discovered in our own Kansas backyard. It’s also why you might find yourself face-to-face with one of our Loss Control, Safety and Compliance professionals while out in the field. Their travels to the state’s 30 electric cooperatives throughout the year to teach safety workshops and train employees on best practices many times has led to opportunities to teach electrical safety to unsuspecting Kansans.
The team occasionally encounters unsafe practices of fellow Kansans going about their daily routines unaware of potential safety hazards. Safety hazards are equal opportunists and staff has found potentially deadly situations in all aspects of work and recreation. From metal ladders propped against trees for trimming limbs near electrical lines, to hay bales stacked underneath electrical lines (see photo below), our safety crew has spotted numerous unsafe situations, that, with one false move of a hand or wrong turn of equipment, can turn fatal.
According to Electrical Safety Foundation International, between 2011 and 2018, 38% of all electrically related workplace fatalities were caused by overhead power lines. Contact with power lines is the leading cause of electrical fatalities for agricultural workers, and accounts for 53% of electrical-related fatalities in the construction industry.
Just as a doctor traveling on an airline responds to the call of duty when a fellow a passenger needs medical attention, our safety crew is compelled by a sense of duty to “catch it and change it” if they observe a potential electrical safety hazard along their journeys. Don’t be a cautionary tale they cite in their workshops. KEC and Kansas’ electric cooperatives urge readers to slow down and take simple precautions to avoid electrical-related fires, injuries, property loss and fatalities.
Lee Tafanelli is Chief Executive Officer of Kansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. in Topeka.