GFCI ... Sexy Cousin of the Extension Cord
Electrical hazards are an area of major safety concern in most industries and account for a large number of injuries and fatalities. Extension Cords and their best bud, Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) can be found on any construction site, shop, and jobsite as well as office buildings, warehouses and manufacturing plants. Remembering a few safety tips can help prevent serious injuries from happening.
Example of a GFCI "Pig-Tail":
According to OSHA, a GFCI is a fast-acting circuit breaker designed to shut off electric power in the event of a ground-fault within as little as 1/40th of a second. The ground fault occurs as a result of “leaking electricity.”
From a small kitchen lobby in an office building to an industrial food plant, when using electrical equipment or extension cords near a water source they should be plugged into an outlet that is GFCI protected.
When operating machine pumps, welding equipment, or other high energy producing equipment or tools, an industrial GFCI should be used.
Always test GFCIs before use by using the test and reset buttons. If found defective do not use that GFCI.
Inspect all tools and equipment before use, if ground pin is missing do not use.
A GFCI may also be called a Residual Current Device (RCD). GFCIs will shut off the electrical power circuit when it detects that current is flowing along an unintended path, such as through water or a person. This puts it into perspective a bit better as to why these devices are so important on jobsites.
Use GFCIs anywhere (at home, on jobsites, in a warehouse, etc.) to reduce the potential of electrical shocks due to a ground fault. Example of portable GFCI power outlets:
Never take electricity for granted! No matter how small the job, always use safe work practices, especially when using electrical tools and equipment.
To read more about how a GFCI works and the different types of GFCIs available, click here to read a great article at SafeElectricity.org, a program of the Energy Education Council.
OSHA also provides an article on Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (in both English and Spanish!) through their Construction eTool. Click here to check out the OSHA article.
If you are interested in Electrical Safety and want to learn more, ElectricalSchool.org has put together an amazing glossary of electrical terms. This comprehensive list includes definitions, related links and videos for every term and acronym you can think of related to electrical work and safety.