Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards cover many electrical hazards in many different industries. OSHA’s general industry electrical safety standards are published in Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), part 1910.302 through 308 – Design Safety Standards for Electrical Systems, and 1910.331 through 335 – Safety-Related Work Practices. OSHA has developed electrical safety standards for the construction industry, in 29 CFR 1926, Subpart K - Electrical. OSHA’s electrical standards are based on the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards NFPA 70, National Electric Code, and NFPA 70E, Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces. NFPA 70 has been adopted in all 50 states and is the benchmark for safe electrical design, installation, and inspection to protect people and property from electrical hazards. In states with OSHA-approved programs the standards and other procedures governing electrical safety may not be identical to the federal requirements; however they must be at least as effective as the federal standards. Violations such as lockout/tagout and electrical wiring methods consistently appear in OSHA’s top 10 list of violations.
Causes of Electrical Hazards: Most electrical hazard accidents result from one of the following three factors:
• Unsafe equipment or installation
• Unsafe environment
• Unsafe work practices
Prevention of Electrical Hazards: Ways to prevent electrical hazard accidents are through the use of:
• Insulation - using glass, mica, rubber or plastic insulators.
• Guarding - locating or enclosing electrical equipment.
• Grounding - creating a low-resistance path that connects to the earth.
• Electrical protective devices - fuses, circuit breakers and ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI).
• Safe work practices that include:
Job planning - Safety on the job is not something that just happens. Complete a detailed job plan and communicate it to all co-workers. Planning prevents mistakes and injuries from occurring. Identification - Identify all possible energy sources that could pose on-the-job hazards.
Deenergizing - The number one way to prevent electrical injuries and fatalities is to deenergize the equipment being worked on. It may take a little more time and planning, but your life and health are worth it.
Lockout/tagout - These procedures safeguard workers from the unexpected energization, or startup of machinery and equipment. They can also prevent the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities.
Equipment maintenance - Always keep electrical tools properly maintained.
Exercise caution - When working near energized lines.
Use personal protective equipment (PPE) - As a last line of defense. PPE includes: hard hats, gloves, goggles, safety shoes, flame-resistant shirts and pants, safety glasses, face shields, fall protection equipment, etc.
TEST BEFORE YOU TOUCH - Every year workers are injured or killed by circuits they thought were safely turned off. Simply shut-ting off the power is not enough. Hazardous conditions can still exist.
Most electrically-related fatalities and injuries could have easily been avoided. Responsibility for your safety begins with you. Take steps to protect yourself every day and make safety an integral part of how you do business.
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