Safety on the job is everyone’s responsibility. If an employer or employee neglects this responsibility, the chance of serious injury or death increases significantly. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) considers an industry at significant risk if one fatality occurs for every 1,000 employees in a 45-year time frame. Statistics indicate electrical workers are killed or injured on the job at a rate that continues to exceed this level. Without effective safety programs, an injury or fatality is simply a matter of time.
Everyone should establish best safety practices early in their career. Safety is an integral part of all apprentice and journeyman training, which includes OSHA regulations, and OSHA adopted much of the NFPA 70E, the Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace.
However, remember that a safety program only establishes minimum standards to prevent hazardous electrical exposures to personnel. The industry can no longer adopt generic programs that fail to address the unique demands of electrical work. Programs for electrical construction must focus on hazards, such as transportation accidents and falls, without losing sight of electrocution hazards. Three of the top four hazards that cause worker fatalities were related to contact with some aspect of electricity. An employer should have a good foundation in safety that is focused on reducing the number of injuries and fatal accidents on a job site. Employees should understand the causes and prevention methods of accidents.
Monitoring and troubleshooting power quality problems is no exception to the need for safety programs. The following are examples of some employer responsibilities:
• Maintaining a hazard-free work space and de-energizing circuits whenever possible before performing work
• Ensuring the employee is qualified for each task he or she is assigned, which includes knowing the potential hazards and providing safety training
• Conducting regular job site safety inspections, documenting problems, and retraining and taking immediate remedial action where necessary
• Training employees in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation on site and providing an automated external defibrillator with appropriate training
• Ensuring the employer-provided equipment, including the power quality monitoring instruments, are in good working order and have the proper safety features and regulatory compliance certification for the job
In turn, employees are responsible for the following:
• Taking care of personal protective equipment (PPE) and always wearing the appropriate PPE for arc flash or other hazards
• Using the right tool for the job and using the safety features on tools and equipment (don’t disable or bypass them)
• Knowing for which work they and their coworkers are qualified
• Never allowing one employee to put another in danger
• Reading the instruction manuals of all equipment and power quality monitoring instruments in use before starting any access to or making the connections for voltage and/or current measurements
• Never using or tolerating drug or alcohol use on the job
• Using voltage and current probes only on circuits for which they are rated
• Using fuse-protected voltage probes
Creating a job-safety program clearly has many benefits. However, some people still perceive job-safety programs as too expensive. In fact, studies have shown that implementing an effective safety program saves a company more money than it costs, due to the reduction or elimination of economic impacts of lost production, finding replacement workers, medical treatment, disability payments and OSHA fines. Some companies even consider it a profit center, as few, if any, have a line item in their budgets or estimates for the costs of accidents, which can wipe out years of profits for small electrical contracting companies, and that doesn’t include the price of returning home at night safely. That is truly priceless.
BINGHAM, a contributing editor for power quality, can be reached at 732.287.3680