OSHA Electrical Safety Awareness For Your Facility
There are innumerable Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations and policies, but a few will apply to nearly all companies. Due to the sheer amount of powered equipment in a modern facility, as well as the serious risk if these assets malfunction, electrical hazards and OSHA electrical safety awareness should be top of mind, no matter your industry or the size of your buildings.
Creating a comprehensive electrical safety awareness plan in line with OSHA’s specifications means combining employee preparedness with a well-designed and actively maintained work environment. This plan, implemented carefully, can reduce potential electrical hazards and minimize the risk of avoidable accidents in the workplace, keeping workers healthy and the facility working smoothly.
What do employees need to know about electrical equipment?
While there are many elements to an electrical safety awareness strategy, from personal protective equipment use to environmental controls on power, employees’ own knowledge is of paramount importance.
All workers need an understanding of what electrical hazards entail and how best to guard against them, tailored to suit the equipment they interact with in their day-to-day work practices. In its publication on electrical safety awareness, OSHA urges employers to ensure their workers are “trained and thoroughly familiar with the safety procedures of their particular jobs.”
When dealing with electricity, this means applying some common-sense principles to every asset, such as never maintaining equipment with energized parts until it has been de-energized, ensuring it doesn’t power up unexpectedly by employing lockout and tagout procedures and wearing appropriate PPE. Workers should never get too close to assets’ exposed energized parts.
The human element of OSHA safety awareness goes beyond individual knowledge. Company management and shift leaders have roles to play, making sure employees have been properly instructed in dealing with electrical equipment before being assigned to work with these assets. Leaders must also arrange for adequate electrical safety training sessions and implement worksite analysis and hazard control programs.
With these general roles and responsibilities established, your business can design its specific OSHA electrical safety program.
What does OSHA electrical safety compliance entail?The OSHA standards for electrical safety are based on the code created by the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces, also known as NFPA 70E. It encompasses risks from electrocution and electrical shock to other types of electrical injury such as burns. OSHA regulations specify safety related work practices around electric equipment. These cover situations from the installation of the assets through their ongoing use and maintenance, to make sure there are no added risks at any stage. Some of the principal issues covered by OSHA’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards — Electrical include:
- Installation: Electric equipment must be installed in keeping with instructions and in a “neat and workmanlike manner.” More specific installation instructions depend on the environment — equipment that needs airflow must not have its ventilation blocked by walls, and assets outside must be guarded to make sure people don’t accidentally experience an electric shock by touching them.
- Upkeep and maintenance: It is against OSHA regulations to operate electric equipment that has damaged parts potentially affecting their safe operation. If any piece of the asset could undermine its mechanical strength or prevent its correct use, that issue must be corrected immediately. Furthermore, employees have to make sure the internal parts of the equipment are not damaged or impeded by paint, cleaner or other substances.
- Markings and warnings: The markings on a piece of equipment must convey important information, such as the maker of the aset, voltage, wattage, current and more. These important details have to be applied in a way that won’t fade or wear off in the equipment’s intended environment.
- Guarding: Electric equipment operating at 50 volts or more needs to be enclosed or otherwise guarded to stop accidental contact with the live current. This means placing the asset in a room, cabinet or vault to ensure only authorized personnel can access it. These enclosures should be marked with signage to further prevent incidental contact.
How does proactive maintenance contribute to facility electrical safety awareness?
The OSHA rules are clear: There is no room for damaged or otherwise compromised electric equipment in a facility today. To prevent an avoidable electrical accident in as many cases as possible and stop hazardous energy from becoming an elevated risk factor, assets should be maintained to high standards.
This need for constant, effective upkeep fits in with the principles of proactive maintenance. Rather than running a purely reactive facility maintenance system that waits for assets to fail before taking action, your team can embrace a comprehensive proactive maintenance stance, cataloging and assessing every piece of equipment to get ahead of potential issues.
Deploying an effective proactive maintenance program means learning more about your facility equipment, then taking action. This can include the following steps:
- Assessment of every asset: Your organization should have a record of every piece of equipment it operates, with the records updated regularly. By noting the suitability for purpose, age and real-time condition of all assets, maintenance personnel can create a priority list, helping them assess when electrical equipment could present a hazard.
- Regular proactive maintenance: Equipped with detailed knowledge of what assets are installed at a facility, as well as the condition and usage of that equipment, expert technicians can perform necessary upkeep in advance of potential downtime. In the case of regulated systems such as electrical equipment, these personnel must be trained and carry out the work in line with OSHA standards.
- Emergency repairs on demand: While one major purpose of proactive maintenance is to minimize avoidable downtime, every company is susceptible to breakdowns. It’s therefore important to have trained expert technicians on call who can resolve issues that occur, keeping these issues from creating costly delays to your facility’s everyday operations.
Having plans in place to stop avoidable accidents, as well as access to expert technicians who work in line with OSHA regulations, can make a massive difference to your organization’s overall safety awareness. A facility that experiences less downtime and has a reliable strategy for dealing with issues it does encounter is well-positioned from an electrical equipment perspective.
What are the everyday advantages of electrical safety awareness?Preventing avoidable electrical hazards and equipment downtime wherever possible isn’t just an indispensable policy objective from an employee health and wellness perspective. A workplace suffering fewer interruptions is also poised to be more efficient and run more smoothly in general. Add this to the morale boost that comes from workplace safety awareness, and it’s clear that precautions and productivity are perfectly aligned. As employers have a legal and moral obligation to provide safe working conditions for employees, the primary advantage of a well-prepared and safety-aware workplace will always be the minimization of avoidable harm to workers. Beyond this, the advantages can be divided into a few categories:
- Personnel advantages: From retention, recruiting and individual productivity perspectives, a workplace with a good electrical safety program will stand above one that lacks an adequate strategy. When employees feel management cares about their well-being, that is a strong incentive for top performers to join and stay with the company.
- Operational advantages: Minimizing electrical equipment downtime through proactive maintenance and related programs has direct advantages for everyday work. On the loading dock alone, electrical assets may include the loading dock door, leveler, forklift battery charger and more. By keeping this equipment in working order, the organization stops costly interruptions.