Active vs Passive Electrical Safety Systems

There are generally two types of safety systems: Active and Passive.

Active safety systems are designed to prevent accidents or critical incidents from occurring. Using the analogy of a passenger vehicle, an example of active safety is the lane departure warning system. This system determines the car’s position by using cameras to detect markings on the road and then sounds a warning to notify the driver if the vehicle drifts into another lane. Thus preventing, or significantly reducing the likelihood, of a collision.

Passive systems, on the other hand, are designed to mitigate the risk of serious injury or fatality when an accident occurs. Returning to our passenger vehicle analogy, an example of a passive safety system is the air bags which protect the occupants from injury in the event of an accident. Passive systems do nothing to prevent an accident from occurring.

It could be argued that passive safety systems are necessary but not sufficient and that both active and passive safety systems are required to provide comprehensive safety.

When it comes to workplace electrical safety, there are active and passive safety systems that may apply as well.

An example of a passive safety system is personal protective equipment (PPE), such as insulating rubber gloves or arc-rated clothing that protect workers from injuries from shock and arc flash. Furthermore, as a passive system, PPE does nothing to prevent shock or arc flash incident from occurring.

There are also active safety systems that can be deployed to actually prevent shock and arc flash incidents from occurring in the workplace. Conducting a Job Safety Assessment prior to performing electrical tasks is one such active system. Job Safety Assessments take the worker through a series of steps designed to assess the risk of shock and arc flash, identify and document any other hazards that may exist, and then take proactive steps using the hierarchy of control to minimize or eliminate the likelihood of occurrence.

It should also be noted that both passive and active systems may be mandated or recommended by regulations. For example, CSA Standard Z462 Workplace Electrical Safety specifies the levels of PPE required to protect workers in the event of shock and/or arc flash incidents.

When it comes to active safety for electrical work, a solution like e-WorkSAFE can help. Electricians use the e-WorkSAFE mobile app to do Job Safety Assessments before each task, thus mitigating risk and ensuring compliance.

e-WorkSAFE ensures that your staff and contractors Work SAFE by complying with CSA Z462 for all electrical tasks and Work SMART by capturing critical knowledge. Thus, allowing your organization to invoke both active and passive safety systems with the goal of providing comprehensive workplace electrical safety.

For more information on e-WorkSAFE, please visit