Due to the fact that electrical elements are present in nearly all workplaces – and that unchecked electric current can prove fatal – the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) maintains a series of rules designed to help companies keep their employees safe from electric shocks and other related hazards.
There are several ways for electricity to prove dangerous in the workplace, with OSHA singling out equipment that is unsafe or not installed correctly, as well as risky environmental factors and suboptimal practices and norms. OSHA standards regarding safe electrical practices are based on a code put together by the National Fire Protection Association. No matter the exact purpose or description of your facility, you should focus on how to apply these standards to keep your employees safe during their day-to-day tasks.
The standards set out by OSHA are broken down into two general categories: The safe design and correct use of electrical equipment and systems around facilities of all kinds. Rather than focusing on everything having to do with electricity, which today covers innumerable pieces of infrastructure throughout a facility, the rules are designed to deal with operating, exposed elements: These may be motors, lights, switches, appliances, control units and other devices.
Certain elements must be tested and certified by approved industry bodies to minimize the risk of electrical hazards. Common sense safety practices that will keep employees protected from these risks are a must, no matter what type of facility you operate.
What do employees need to know about electrical equipment?
One of the most important parts of OSHA electrical safety awareness and preparation involves training and preparing employees to properly interact with electrical wires and equipment of various kinds. Though this type of education may at first seem too basic to deserve such attention – the ubiquitous nature of electricity can make training seem redundant – OSHA advises companies to give employees any necessary safety training if they commonly work with powered assets.
This safety education may mean learning to de-energize electrical systems when they're receiving work and attention. Lockout and tagout procedures designed to keep heavy equipment from powering on unexpectedly may save lives if they're applied correctly. Furthermore, when wires or other components carry too great a current to handle safely with bare hands, workers should have access to insulating personal protective equipment such as gloves, and they must know which parts can never be touched safely.
Preparing the workforce to stay safe from electrical hazards is an essential part of an OSHA awareness program, but focusing on employee education isn't the only thing leaders can or should do for their teams. Taking a proactive and responsible approach to repairing and maintaining all components within a facility is another essential part of creating a positive safety culture.
How does proactive maintenance contribute to facility electrical safety?
Upkeep of equipment and the work environment within a facility can determine the level of risk associated with that location. Poorly maintained electrical assets may suffer from wear and tear, and companies that don't perform frequent checks and upkeep as part of a proactive maintenance strategy may not even realize the extent of damage accumulating in their equipment. This lack of attention is incompatible with a safety culture and shows poor OSHA awareness.
Companies that consider maintenance a purely reactive function and wait for equipment to fail before taking action may end up dealing with extensive costs due to the overtime, materials and additional expenses associated with emergency repairs. The opposite of this reactive-only approach is to establish a proactive strategy that includes frequent checks of every relevant component. Investment in such a policy saves money and time by turning the unplanned expenses associated with asset failures into a manageable operating expenditure.
Warehouses, distribution centers and other commercial facilities each have their own electrical safety requirements, based on the powered assets present in the particular building. Dock equipment such as powered doors and lifts will require check-ups on electrical elements, as will any automated equipment throughout the facility. Companies that must maintain an unbroken cold chain or have similar environmental requirements must be especially proactive keeping their powered components maintained – an electrical failure could ruin a large amount of merchandise.
Businesses that operate fleets of battery-powered forklifts have their own unique electrical infrastructure maintenance needs. The charging stations for these industrial vehicles could be extremely hazardous if allowed to fall into disrepair, making them high-priority items for any proactive maintenance program.
What are the advantages of proactive workplace safety?
Taking a proactive approach to securing potential hazards and maintaining electrical and mechanical workplace assets can pay off over time in ways both direct and indirect. In addition to the direct advantages of paying for periodic checks and upkeep rather than suffering the financial losses associated with a failure, organizations may also find they are better able to recruit and retain employees in their safer and more hospitable workplaces.
Prospects who feel leaders don't care about creating a culture of safety may hesitate to work for a particular company, and top workers could choose to go elsewhere. Holding onto these top performers for long periods of time is an effective way to build the performance and efficiency of a company. Furthermore, organizations that are not proactive about maintaining their electrical assets may be unprepared for OSHA inspections into whether they are creating a safe workplace for their employees.
Due to the commonplace nature of electrical assets and the risk of serious injury that comes with an electrical system failure, proactive maintenance plans should always encompass a company's electrical systems. Everything from everyday extension cords to high-voltage industrial machinery is a potential hazard, and a workplace cannot be regarded as truly safe and secure until all these assets are accounted for and guarded properly. Thankfully, with the help of an expert service partner, facility managers will find it is not particularly difficult to get compliant and smart about electrical safety.
To look into compliance with OSHA regulations or create bespoke maintenance strategies around your facility's unique combination of equipment, you can contact Miner, an expert service partner with over 50 years of experience in serving industry organizations.