In Safety and in Health

In Safety and in Health

How to administer an effective electrical safety program

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), effective management of worker safety and health protection is a decisive factor in reducing the extent and severity of work-related injuries and illnesses. Effective management must address all work-related hazards, including potential hazards that could result from a change in work site conditions or practices, whether or not they are regulated by government or consensus standards.

OSHA reached this conclusion through the evaluation of work sites in its enforcement program, state-operated consultation program, and Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP), all of which revealed a basic relationship between effective management of worker safety and health protection and a low incidence and severity of employee injuries and fatalities. This management style also correlated with the elimination or adequate control of employee exposure to electrical hazards and other unhealthful conditions.

OSHA's experience in the Voluntary Protection Programs, in which management, labor, and OSHA establish cooperative relationships at workplaces that have implemented a comprehensive safety and health management system, has also indicated that effective management of safety and health protection improves employee morale and productivity as well as significantly reduces workers' compensation costs and other less obvious costs of work-related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.

Management's role

Management ultimately bears the burden of effectively administering an electrical safety program. In fact, its involvement in the development and implementation of this plan is vital to overall success of the program. Managers must address several key areas when developing an inspection program (What to Look for During an Inspection below), which include, but are not limited to, hazard assessments, inspections, safety and health training, and evaluation of the existing safety and health management system.

To assist employers and employees in developing effective safety and health management systems, OSHA published recommended “Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines” (Federal Register 54(16): 3904-3916, Jan. 26, 1989). You can apply the following voluntary guidelines, which identify four general elements that are critical to the development of a successful safety and health management system, to all places of employment covered by OSHA.

  • Management leadership and employee involvement

  • Work site analysis

  • Hazard prevention and control

  • Safety and health training

Other valuable resources in establishing an electrical safety program are the NFPA 70E, “Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace,” Section 110.7, Electrical Safety Program, and the NFPA Electrical Safety Program Book.

Electrical inspection program

The OSHA Act of 1970, Sec. 5(a)(1), known as the “General Duty Clause,” requires the employer to provide a safe and healthful workplace for every worker. To assist in accomplishing this task, employers should implement self assessment or inspection programs to ensure that the electrical systems and equipment are properly designed and installed (as well as operated and maintained) in a safe and reliable condition.

Conduct electrical safety inspections to verify full compliance with OSHA 29 CFR 1910 Subpart S, along with applicable portions of 1910.269, electrical regulations as well as industry consensus standards, such as NFPA 70, “National Electrical Code”; NFPA 70E, “Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace”; NFPA 70B, “Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance”; and, where applicable, ANSI/IEEE C2, “National Electrical Safety Code.” Compliance with these regulations and standards will help to ensure that employees are maintaining electrical systems and equipment in reliable and safe working condition as well as each employee's use of safe work practices and appropriate electrical protective equipment. Inspections also assist supervisors and managers in meeting electrical safety goals set by the company for regulatory compliance.

These inspection programs should be conducted by a knowledgeable, qualified person. One way to ensure the inspection program is on target is to have electrically qualified company safety personnel conduct the inspections. Another option is to hire a contracted third-party safety inspector. Using a person from outside the facility will often lead to discovery of items and deficiencies that may be overlooked by self inspection.

Make qualified persons review your written electrical safety inspection program periodically to ensure that checklists are current and being used. Inspections should include a review of the entire electrical safe program and safe work practice procedures for energized and de-energized work. Written work practices, personal protective equipment, and electrical equipment and systems should be inspected for compliance. Inspections should also include “work in progress” to ensure each worker understands and is implementing the safe work practices and procedures.

A root cause analysis of the deficiencies identified should be a part of the inspection program. Analyze changes or corrections in processes, practices, and procedures to help prevent a reoccurrence — and communicate any issues identified in the inspection or lessons learned to others in the organization who may benefit from that information.

Electrical safety inspections are necessary in order to verify compliance with regulations and standards. Compliance with the OSHA regulations and NFPA standards will provide a means to reduce accidents, injuries, and fatalities in all segments of industry.

Neitzel is the director of AVO Training Institute, Dallas. He can be reached at [email protected].

Sidebar: What to Look for During an Inspection

Proper electrical safety inspections are extremely comprehensive. The list below identifies several deficiencies commonly found during inspections:

  • Outdated one-line diagrams

  • Untrained and non-qualified operators and maintenance technicians

  • Inadequate grounding and bonding

  • Corrosion of materials and/or equipment

  • Poor maintenance practices

  • Exposed live parts — covers left off or doors left open

  • Unused openings not effectively closed

  • Working space around electrical equipment does not meet minimum requirements

  • Identification of disconnecting means missing

  • Improper, unapproved, or damaged extension cords

  • Damaged cord- and plug-connected equipment

  • Lack of electrical personal protective equipment (PPE)

Based on “Managing Electrical Safety” by Dennis K. Neitzel. © 2009 IEEE.

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