Last year 81 workers died in accidents related to electrical safety hazards. These fatalities can occur in the electrical field, but also are found in related trades, such as construction, driving, or painting.
Electrical shocks are caused when electricity, which travels in closed circuits (usually through a conductor), is interrupted when a person’s body becomes part of the circuit. During a shock, electricity flows between the body parts or through the body to a ground or the earth.
Quite often, industrial fatalities are caused by the following conditions:
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act regulates many electrical hazards in a number of industries, with general standards published in Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1910.302 through 1910.308 — Design Safety Standards for Electrical Systems, and 1910.331 through 1910.335 — Electrical Safety-Related Work Practices Standards.
The OSHA standards state that most electrical accidents result from unsafe work practices, an unsafe environment, or unsafe equipment or installation. Insulation, grounding, guarding, safe work practices or electrical protective devices all help to prevent electrical accidents.
With the level of information available from OSHA and other safety sources on minimizing electrical hazards, you would think management in electrical and other industries would do more to identify hazards and abate them. For the fact is, systematic analysis, safe practices, and good training go hand in hand in eliminating risks and minimizing accidents.
Obviously, management has a responsibility to provide safe working conditions and equipment so the workforce is protected from electrical hazards. However, the workforce should also be trained on how to recognize potential hazards and what is the safest course of action to take when they encounter them.
Here’s where the employer can start:
Institute safe practices. Plan every job carefully, detailing specifics, anticipating the unexpected, and identifying hazards. Assess employees’ abilities, keeping the unqualified away from hazards.
Practices will obviously depend on the nature of the industry, but in all industries, de-energizing equipment prior to maintenance and repair work is key. The de-energized state should be verified prior to work, and maintained during the course of the work through the use of locks, tags, and in some cases, grounding. The workforce should be well trained in these practices, with refresher training as needed.
Do a shock hazard analysis. A hazard analysis should include the physical condition of the electrical system. Covers and guards should be in place. Be sure only qualified persons have access to exposed conductors. Overcurrent protective devices should be operable, and of the right interrupting rating.
Hazards analysis should also include: arc flash, as most serious electrical injuries happen when an electrical arc is created during ground faults, switching procedures, and short circuits; and arc blast, an electrical blast or explosion.
Maintain protective personal clothing and equipment. Protective clothing, as well as insulated tools and correct body positioning, can minimize the risks of electrical shock. Employers should maintain appropriate personal protective clothing and equipment for all the hazards mentioned above, and also ensure that employees know the following:
The process can be completed by creating a manual on electrical safe work practices, to be distributed to all personnel who might be impacted by electrical hazards. Take steps to ensure the workforce has read and understood the analysis and safety plans.
If you’ve done all you can to provide a work environment that minimizes the risk of electrical hazards, the final and perhaps most important step is to offer ongoing electrical safety training for your workforce. Ensure that your employees understand the effect of good maintenance on equipment and how it reduces injury, how to test instruments making contact with energized parts, and how to perform safe electrical work practices. Learning how to inspect and maintain PPE as well as how to verify an electrically safe condition are just a couple of the other safe practices your workforce should know.
If you’re looking for quality, hands-on training from expert instructors to guide your workforce in electric hazard safety, contact NTT today. We offer a wide variety of electrical safety trainings in locations nationwide, or even better, why not arrange a custom training at your facility for all your employees? Call 855-712-7353 to speak to an advisor today.