This post is the second in a series that will countdown the top 10 most common violations reported by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Be sure to check back for updates to the series!
Written By: Matthew Day, ARM, AIS
You may be “shocked” to find out that electrical hazard violations made #9 on OSHA’s top 10 list in 2013. Although young and new workers with less experience are more susceptible to work-related injury related to electricity, even an experienced person can be seriously injured or killed if proper controls are not in-place. Think about it, electricity is all around us. Electrical current simply follows its designed path unless there is some type of interruption or mishandling that results in a new path…you. If not managed and maintained, injuries from this exposure can result in electrocution (death because of electrical shock), electrical shock, burns, and falls. Did you now that an electrical shock from 1/10 of an ampere (amp) for 2 seconds can cause death? Here are a few other uncomfortable facts:
- Currents above 10 milliamperes (mA) can paralyze or “freeze” muscles; this means you are unable to release the tool, wire, or other object in hand causing more extensive injuries.
- Currents above 30 mA can cause respiratory paralysis. This is when muscles related to breathing stop functioning properly!
The purpose of this article series is to give you a starting point and some basic direction on each of the top 10 cited standards. The article is not a complete resource on these standards, however. Links to the OSHA standards are provided for each of the 10 listed standards if you wish to review in more detail. If you are interested in additional learning opportunities about OSHA standards, including how your business can remain in compliance, you should consider taking an OSHA 10 or 30 hour certification course. Courses are available online or in a classroom, whichever fits best into your schedule!
#9 – Electrical, General (29 CFR 1910.303) – 2,745 violations
This standard is titled “General” under 1910 Subpart S – Electrical. Workplace injury/fatality statistics report that there are 350 electrical related fatalities each year and 2,620 electrical related loss time injuries annually. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that 230,000 young workers under the age of 18 suffer work-related injuries in the United States each year, with electrocution being the 5th leading cause of death for workers aged 16-19 years old (an average of 10 deaths per year).
You don’t need to be an electrician to be exposed to these kinds of electrical current hazards. Here are some guidelines to work safely with electricity.
1. Electrical equipment must be Clean, Dry, and Tight.
- Clean – Dirt is a common cause of electrical failure. If you see dirt, dust, or other debris in or around your electrical equipment, action is required.
- Dry – Electrical equipment operates best in a dry, corrosive free environment. Humidity causes an increase in the oxidation of metal. That spells out bad news for your electrical system.
- Tight – Loose wiring can cause major problem to your electrical system. Infrared thermography can be used to identify “hot spots” in your system that can be a valuable service to prevent serious electrical component-related system breakdowns. Westfield Insurance has partnered with Hartford Steam Boiler (HSB) to provide this type of service at a negotiated rate for our valued customers. Just give us a call in the Risk Services department to help set up this service.
2. Give your electrical panels space (36 inches for most non-hazardous standard voltage systems), and close those panel doors! Storage accumulated around electrical panels is a fire hazard and prevents adequate access to de-energizing your electrical system in the event of an emergency. If panel doors are left open, that increases the probability of debris getting into your electrical system and provides the opportunity for the electrical current to find a new path under the right circumstances. Electrical panel clearance and closing your electrical panel doors are simple best practices for your electrical risk management program (ERM).
3. Train employees that are face exposure to live wires. Make sure everyone else has clear working space and will be guarded from electrical exposure. Electrical training should include:
4. Keep good housekeeping practices. Combustible dust, flammable liquids, and flammable vapors can cause fire and explosion if ignited (yes, electricity is an ignition source). Make sure these types of exposures are properly controlled. Ask a Westfield Insurance Risk Consultant or Risk Representative if you have any compliance questions.
5. Enforce your lockout/tagout program (LOTO) and de-energize the system whenever anyone is planning to work on electrical equipment. Unfortunately, it only takes one “oops” to change a life forever.
Remember safety is an attitude, there are no exceptions!
What safety measures does your team implement to keep workers safe from injury related to work with electronics? Share your tips below, or experiences meeting this OSHA standard.
Image Source: Brenden Riley under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 2.0 Generic