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Controlling Electrical Hazards - Health & Safety

Insulation - Preventing Electrical Hazards

One way to safeguard individuals from electrically energized wires and parts is through insulation. An insulator is any material with high resistance to electric current.

Insulators - such as glass, mica, rubber, and plastic - are put on conductors to prevent shock, fires, and short circuits. Before employees prepare to work with electric equipment, it is always a good idea for them to check the insulation before making a connection to a power source to be sure there are no exposed wires. The insulation of flexible cords, such as extension cords, is particularly vulnerable to damage.

The insulation that covers conductors is regulated by Subpart S of 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 1910.302, Design Safety Standards for Electrical Systems, as published in the Federal Register on January 16, 1981.

Subpart S generally requires that circuit conductors (the material through which current flows) be insulated to prevent people from coming into accidental contact with the current. Also, the insulation should be suitable for the voltage and existing conditions, such as temperature, moisture, oil, gasoline, or corrosive fumes. All these factors must be evaluated before the proper choice of insulation can be made.

Conductors and cables are marked by the manufacturer to show the maximum voltage and American Wire Gage size, the type letter of the insulation, and the manufacturer's name or trademark. Insulation is often color coded. In general, insulated wires used as equipment grounding conductors are either continuous green or green with yellow stripes. The grounded conductors that complete a circuit are generally covered with continuous white or natural gray-colored insulation. The ungrounded conductors, or "hot wires," may be any color other than green, white, or gray. They are often colored black or red.

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