Do You Have An Effective Electrical Safety Program?

Source: AVO Training Institute, Inc.

By Dennis K. Neitzel

Click here to download the full article in pdf format.

Incorporating safety into the design of a facility is generally a standard practice for design engineers. However, we find that the electrical safety aspects of the design are generally overlooked. Without a thorough understanding of the OSHA and NFPA requirements for electrical safety, it would be very easy to overlook these issues in the design phase of any project. Electrical safety is not just putting on a pair of rubber gloves or a flash suit; in fact, personal protective equipment (PPE) should be the LAST resort not the first choice. There must be more emphasis placed on designing out the hazards utilizing sound engineering practices. This article will address some of the requirements as well as provide some suggestions on engineering design practices that would improve electrical safety.

On August 6, 1990, the OSHA 29 CFR 1910.331-.335, "Electrical Safety-Related Work Practices" regulation became a Final Rule. This regulation has been in force for almost twelve years and yet a large portion of the industry still does not have an electrical safe work practice procedure in place. One question that we generally get when this subject is brought up is: "is this a new requirement?" We answer with "No this is not a new requirement, it has been around since August 6, 1990." In fact, on November 30, 1987, OSHA published the proposed standard on electrical safety-related work practices. This proposal was based on the 1981 edition of NFPA 70E, "Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces", Part II, "Safety Related Work Practices". As can be seen, the industry has had direction on electrical safety-related work practices since 1981. So we must ask the question: Why are there so many who are not even aware of these electrical safety requirements? In addition, why are there so many, who are aware of the requirements, and yet are not in compliance?

Before developing 1910.331-.335, OSHA surveyed several states, with the following results: "For every requirement set forth in Part II of NFPA 70E, OSHA found injuries or fatalities which were directly relevant." These work practices are not just suggestions they are mandatory requirements that have been promulgated to help prevent injuries and fatalities that are unfortunately happening at an alarming rate even after 21 years of standard requirements for electrical safety programs and procedures.

As was noted in the beginning statement, many aspects of electrical safety can be engineered into electrical equipment as well as the facility design. In addressing this issue we must first understand what the hazards are. All of the studies reviewed have revealed three major hazards of electricity, which are: 1) electrical shock, 2) electrical arc flash, and 3) electrical arc blast. Each of these hazards will be addressed as to the physiological effect on the human body as well as some suggestions for electrical design that could help protect employees from the hazard.

Click here to download the full article in pdf format.