Electrical safety is a concept most people know about but don’t understand well. A lack of information and training on how to interact with electrical systems can be dangerous, especially in an industrial environment.
When working in facilities that host complex powered machinery, employees must know how to protect themselves and other people nearby. Furthermore, facility managers must understand what they need to do to make their worksite as safe as possible. Proper installation and continued inspections and maintenance are critical components to ensuring electrical safety at a warehouse, as is training employees on various systems and providing the appropriate personal protection equipment.
OSHA electrical safety violations
Electrical concerns frequently land on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) annual Top 10 violations list. In 2017, “Electrical – Wiring Methods” came in tenth place with just more than 1,400 citations in fiscal year 2017, The National Safety Council reported. According to Safety and Health Magazine, this was a slight improvement over the year before.
A few of the most frequently spotted issues related to wiring methods, as reported by Safety and Health Magazine, were:
- Conductors entering cutout boxes, fittings or cabinets must be protected against abrasion.
- Openings in cabinets where conductors enter or that aren’t used must be effectively closed.
- Pull boxes, junction boxes and fittings must have covers identified for the purpose.
- Outlet box covers that have holes that allow flexible cords to pass through must have bushings designed for that purpose.
Another commonly cited violation is Electrical – General Requirements. While the fact that it didn’t make the Top 10 in fiscal year 2017 shows improvement, facility managers must continue to ensure all electrical requirements are met throughout their job sites.
Some typical issues OSHA finds relating to general requirements involve:
- Proper installation and use.
- Guards for live parts.
- Requirements for working space or space around electrical components.
- Labels indicating services, feeders or branch circuits at their disconnecting means or overcurrent device.
Electrical maintenance service: a major concern
OSHA doesn’t have to tell facility managers the importance of electrical safety – they’re already well aware. When Plant Services launched its first-ever electrical safety survey, they found that nearly one-quarter of respondents had been directly involved in an arc flash event. Another 60 percent said they knew at least one person who had.
These unpredictable yet dangerous events can not only injure a person and damage equipment, but they also have a negative impact on employee morale. When an arc flash event happens at your worksite, employees will begin to wonder when it’ll happen again – and to whom.
When asked about the greatest electrical challenges in their facilities, respondents to Plant Services survey listed “poor/ineffective equipment maintenance” as No. 1, with 11 percent calling it a high challenge and 28 percent indicating it as a medium challenge. Equipment maintenance was the top response in both the high and medium challenge categories. The survey went one step further to determine what types of maintenance technologies were already in place. The most popular was infrared thermography, followed by oil analysis, motor testing and vibration analysis.
Paying attention to the way equipment functions over time is an important aspect of an effective maintenance strategy, but it must be coupled with a preventive maintenance plan. Periodic, scheduled inspections and maintenance can uncover issues that aren’t immediately obvious to the operator or employees in passing. The sooner problems are discovered and fixed, the safer your work environment will be.
Employees should feel confident that their workplace is safe when they arrive at your facility each day. If you’ve experienced an electrical arc flash or other dangerous events at your site, or know that your equipment may need maintenance, don’t wait to schedule services. Reach out to Miner to learn about how a scheduled preventive maintenance plan can ensure your equipment is in top condition and your work environment is a safe one.