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A Newbies Guide to Electrical Safety in the Workplace (Stay Safe With These Expert Tips)

Electrical accidents in the workplace happen more often than you think.

Around 30,000 arc flash incidents occur every year, and of those, around 400 end up being fatalities.  

Yikes. Anyone could be a statistic. 

As electrical safety experts, our job is to help companies prevent any fines, fires, or fatalities.

And in this article, we’ve packed it full of topics that any newcomer needs to know about electrical safety. 

Continue reading, and we’ll go over the most important electrical safety procedures and tips. 

At Herzig Engineering, we offer professional electrical safety training in alignment with OSHA’s 29 CFR 1910.332(b)(1). If you’re a hospital, manufacturer, or any other facility that needs electricity to operate, you’ll benefit from our services. Click here to request a quote

The Workplace & Electrical Safety: Why is it Important?

Electrical safety in the workplace is important because your employees could get shocked, burnt, blinded, or even killed if certain protocols are not followed. Not to mention, the company could get fined or sued hundreds of thousands of dollars due to incidents. 

In 2020, 5.3% of all electrical incidents were fatal. That’s just too much. Every life is valuable. Your employees deserve to feel safe when they come to work. 

Electrical safety is so serious, in fact, that if the business is not compliant, it could be fined heavily or even shut down if it’s a severe enough infraction.

Think electrical safety fines and citations don’t happen? Think again. A nutrition production plant was hit with 24 citations for workplace safety and health violations and faces more than $300,000 in penalties, according to insurancejournal.com. Electrical safety hazards were cited as a major category. 

Workplace safety is important because companies will get fined if they don’t follow the rules. Not to mention when workers feel their safety is not a priority, production levels fall and unrest can easily take hold of the culture. 

What Are the Basic Rules of Electrical Safety?

All electrical safety really comes down to the number one rule: DE-ENERGIZE. Do not work with the equipment turned on unless there is no way around it.

Below are some other basic electrical safety rules any employee should know. 

DE-ENERGIZE is the most important guideline when it comes to electrical work. Unless there is no other option, do not work with the equipment turned on (infeasible – not inconvenient). Voltage measurement is a basic example of when you MUST work around energized circuit parts. It’s difficult to acquire a reading when the power is turned off! Safe work practices should be specified in a Job Safety Plan and used if a person is required to test or troubleshoot something (arc flash and shock PPE, insulated tools, approach boundaries identified and work area established, etc.).

PPE (personal protective equipment) should be available to protect workers from both arc flash and shock hazards (arc-rated clothing/face protection and dielectric shoes/gloves). 

Tools should be properly insulated with a rating listed from ASTM F-1505 (typically for 1000V) and in good condition. 

Meters should be minimum CAT III at the voltage level they are to be used (example: testing a 480V panel would require a CAT III 600V meter at a minimum, possibly CAT IV 600V if it’s to be used in the main distribution following the incoming power from the utility provider).

Energized Electrical Work Permit (EEWP) is required before starting work on live equipment. No one enjoys paperwork, but it ensures that everyone has given the job their best thought before conducting such dangerous work. 

Note: this information only applies to equipment that runs on voltages of 50 volts or higher. Workers can proceed without de-energizing if the enclosure contains only less than 50V and there is no increased risk of shock or arc flash incidents.

By utilizing each control method as carefully as possible, the workplace would be significantly safer from electrical hazards.

How to Avoid Electrical Safety Hazards in the Workplace

To avoid electrical safety hazards, it’s a combination of identifying boundaries and hazard levels, selecting and using PPE/tools/meters, reviewing job safety plans vs. permits, de-energizing properly (ESWC), performing risk assessments, and more. 

But by far, one of the most effective ways to avoid electrical hazards is by identifying them through an in-depth Electrical Safety Audit. Do you know if your workers are wearing the right PPE? Are you certain your training program is adequate? Do you know if your equipment is properly installed, properly maintained, or has evidence of impending failure? An electrical safety audit will give you a report of these sections and more.  

Herzig Engineering conducts electrical safety audits. Our Engineering Technicians are proficient in the applicable codes and standards regarding the installation and safe work practices.

We will perform an on-site survey of your electrical equipment and safety initiatives while taking pictures of any possible problems that come across. At the end of the day, you’ll have an accurate report of any potential electrical safety issues or risks. 

Request an electrical safety quote by visiting our page here. No obligation or risk. 

Electrical Safety Workplace Training: 5 Tips to Keep Employees Safe

Here are five electrical safety tips to keep employees in your facility safe:

  1. De-energize before adjusting or servicing any equipment (ESWC should be required for anything other than testing, troubleshooting, voltage measuring, visual/infrared, and other such inspections that don’t require crossing the Restricted Approach Boundary).
  2. Assess the electrical worker’s applicable knowledge and skills annually (annual fieldwork audits).
  3. Provide electrical safety training every 3 years or as needed. Don’t just train your electrical workers, though. EVERYONE should have some form of safety training for electrical hazard awareness and understand the reason for safety policies and procedures. 
  4. Have all the right PPE/tools/safety equipment available (arc-rated gear, shock protective equipment, insulated tools, rated meters, shepherd’s hooks or other methods of contact release, fire extinguishers on hand, AEDs, etc.).
  5. Document everything – “If it’s not documented, it didn’t happen” is a statement we often laugh about, but it’s typically how governing bodies function when it comes to maintaining compliance. Ascertain that job safety plans are documented, permits are filled out as needed, an up-to-date ESP is in place, training records are retained, and many more.

A combination of hands-on and classroom-based learning is the best approach we’ve seen to train electrical workers.

How to Write an Electrical Safety Program

   The OSHA enforcement emphasizes the use of proper electrical safety practices, and an electrical safety program is the best way to ensure you have those safety practices firmly utilized in your workplace. 

That’s why writing an electrical safety program is not only important but required. 

Here are some guidelines that will help you write an effective electrical safety program:

  1. Get familiar with the codes and standards applicable to electrical safety: mainly the NFPA 70E, but also the NFPA 70 (more commonly referred to as the NEC), NFPA 70B, ANSI Z10, ANSI S82, IEEE 3007.3, IEEE 1584, ASTM F-1505 & 1506, etc.
  2. Audit your facility/facilities and talk with personnel about how work is currently performed. Utilize your findings to identify areas for improvement based on the applicable codes/standards. Implement results into the ESP.
  3. Get to writing! The Electrical Safety Program should cover the things mentioned in the 2021 edition of NFPA 70E Article 110.5
  4. Let affected employees review the draft and provide feedback. Feedback will allow the program to be finalized with useful content for the workers, and it’s more likely the workers will follow a new policy/procedure if they had the chance to express their perspectives. Just need to be sure feedback is shared in a constructive way (you don’t want to open it up just for a complaining session). 

Need help writing your own electrical safety program? At Herzig Engineering, we can help! Our electrical safety experts will work with you to write and execute your own safety program that is in compliance with OSHA and other governing bodies.

Book a meeting with our team by visiting our page here. 

Conclusion 

Any workplace can present a variety of risks. Electrical dangers in the workplace have the potential to generate a lot of problems for your company.

When employees are under our roof, we are responsible for them, which means that if we do not take the necessary precautions to protect them, we may face problems in the future. 

If an employee is injured while on your watch, failing to follow electrical safety standards in the workplace might have disastrous consequences. 

At Herzig Engineering, we are masters in the electrical safety field. We offer electrical safety consultation, training, and system analyses to a variety of clients.

To decrease risk, and make your workplace safer and more efficient, request a quote now! Work that is professional and of high quality always pays off.