Reducing Risk: Prevention and Mitigation

Gloves.gifWe accept a level of risk in our daily lives in everything we do; the act of driving to work is a good example. The object is to reduce the risks of our actions, or inactions; reduce the potential that your action, your activity, or lack thereof will lead to an undesirable outcome. There are many ways to reduce the risks associated with the work you perform – it takes teamwork to make this happen. Your success can help take a bite out of the growing statistics of injuries and deaths in our electrical industry.

I’d like to present the thought of managing risk from two different angles. One is to reduce the risk of something happening (prevention) and the other is to reduce the risk of injury or death when something does happen (mitigation). In my eyes these are two distinct categories of risk management. Addressing them both separately may help us understand why we take certain precautions and what they are trying to achieve.


The best accident to deal with is the one that never happened. The first step in this process is to get your organization’s mind around a goal of zero incidents. You must make safety your number one priority for the organization. Once your head is in the game, you are ready to begin. What I would like to do here is present some concepts that may help increase the possibility that more projects can be conducted with zero incidents. This list is not all inclusive; feel free to customize as you see fit for your organization. I’m sure if you pulled your safety professionals together you could grow this list.

Work de-energized

Treat every circuit as if it is energized and work de-energized – a best practice and a policy to live by.

Identify hazards

As a youngster, I could be found every summer working with my uncle on many types of construction projects. I walked the peaks of roofs, bounced on pole scaffold planks, and scurried up poorly secured ladders. I was never afraid and no job was out of my ability. The older I got the more things changed. Why is it that I now see standing on a 2x12 plank 30 feet in the air without a safety harness as hazardous to my health but didn’t when I was in seventh grade? It is not because I had a bad experience or saw someone else have a bad day. It is because I have been made more aware of the risk associated with these activities. I’m well-read when it comes to statistics and the ill effects of this type of work done without the proper safety equipment. Recognizing hazards is not as easy as it sounds. It takes continuous training and insight from others who may see hazards that are not apparent to the average observer.

Seek input from others including those you work with, trade organizations like IEC, and manufacturer’s instructions. Help your employees identify the hazards because recognizing them is the first step to avoidance.

Equipment care

Don’t let a poorly maintained tool be the reason for your injury. We rely on our tools to make our lives easier. In many cases they are an absolute necessity to get the job done. If not cared for, they may be the cause of a visit to the hospital or worse. Before you use a tool or as you are putting it away, perform an inspection. Many tools simply need a quick review. Some may need periodic testing. Insulated hand tools, matting, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) that are supposed to prevent electrocution should the tool come in contact with energized equipment, may require more than just a visual inspection. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 70E, “Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace,” includes Table