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Doug Tellins recent article published in the April edition of the APWA reporter http://issuu.com/apwa/docs/201504_reporteronline/52?e=0

Big Changes in Electrical Safety!

There has been a major shift in the enforcement of electrical safety. This is in part due to the latest regulations concerning Arc Flash Risk Assessments. Arc Flash in a sense has become the driving force for bringing the existing known hazards of shock and electrocution to the forefront, as well as emphasizing the importance of qualified persons and proper equipment maintenance. Explosions, burn injuries, and physical trauma caused by electrical equipment failure and accidental contact are easily visualized at a primordial level.

This has made OSHA compliance officers and safety professionals take a second look at what factors contribute to electrical injuries and what can be done to prevent future injuries from occurring. It is becoming more and more evident that working as an electrician or electrical maintenance person requires training and an understanding that even the slightest modification or error can have catastrophic results. Arc Flash Risk Assessments are just one piece of the overall picture in becoming OSHAcompliant and preventing future injuries or deaths.

It may be best to identify some of the root causes of electrical accidents and injuries then address them individually.

  1. Inadequately trained personnelArc Flash Training and Arc Flash 2015
  2. Electrical hazards have not been evaluated properly
  3. Lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  4. Poorly maintained electrical equipment

The best defense is a good offense. Employees who have been properly trained have the skills to avoid and prevent the accident before they occur. If an event does occur, they have the proper PPE to maintain a survivable level. The question “Who is a Qualified Person?” seems to be a common debate. There is frustration that OSHA does not clearly define what a qualified person is except for the fact that a person must be deemed qualified to work on or near energized parts. OSHA and the NFPA 70E also have strict guidelines on when you can and can’t work near energized parts. Every qualified person should know these regulations or standards as well as several others. OSHA’s definition of a qualified person (1910.399 8/07) includes the phrase “has demonstrated skills.” This has a big impact on the type of training required for electrical workers. In order to meet this requirement a person actually has to demonstrate the ability to perform the task in a safe and timely manner. The level of training should match the level of the hazard. This type of training is seen in the community and is accepted because there is a proper perception on the hazards and consequences of these hazards.

Take firemen, for example; if they make a mistake “on the job” the worst-case scenario would be death to themselves or others nearby. The public in general would not feel safe if they knew the only training fireman received was watching a short video on how to drive a fire truck and put out fires. So one could ask what is the worst case scenario if an electrician makes a mistake on the job. It could also be death to themselves or others nearby. If the training an electrician receives does not include individual hands on demonstrations and auditing procedures, training would be incomplete. If the worker cannot perform the task with proper PPE in a safe manner, a reasonable person can assume the training has failed. When it comes to training OSHA tells employers what to do and the NFPA 70E tells them how to do it. Justification to work, Hazard Risk Assessments, PPE, Shock Boundaries, CPR/AED, Release of Victims, and LOTO are but a few of the items a person needs to clearly know and demonstrate their ability to perform before an employer can deem them qualified.

How can an employer protect their employees from a hazard if they don’t know what the hazard is?

This is why Arc Flash Risk Assessments are so very important in an overall electrical safety program. Is the panel a stick of dynamite or is it a fire cracker? Choosing the proper PPE for personnel is incredibly important but almost impossible without conducting an Arc Flash Risk Assessment. Even in what would be considered a small Arc Flash, the choice of clothing can literally mean life or death. Arc Flash Risk Assessments are the only way to reduce a hazard to a manageable level. This is a vital step in OSHA’s requirements to Assess-Eliminate-Reduce hazards in a facility.

So how does properly maintained electrical equipment fall into the picture?

If equipment is improperly maintained or at the end of its life cycle, there can be devastating consequences. Equipment near the end of its life cycle, as with any mechanical part, can fail at any given time. At best it would mean disruption in power or loss of production. Worst case would mean death, serious injuries, and building damage. Outdated and improperly maintained or tested equipment will not operate as expected. If the Arc Flash Risk Assessment is based on particular clearing times of breakers and the breaker does not clear per manufactures specs, the hazards can increase exponentially. This renders PPE virtually ineffective. It takes highly trained personnel to evaluate and test electrical equipment. Electricity is not only the most powerful and dangerous item in your facility but also arguably the one item you cannot do without. Electricity deserves the upmost respect as a driving force for industry and as a hazard.

To learn more about electrical safety specialists and the service we offer please visit our website at www.arcflashpro.com.

Doug Tellin, ME
Electrical Safety Specialists, LLC
Project Manager/Consultant
dtellin@arcflashpro.com
Electrical Safety Specialists can be reached at (816) 925-0443 or www.arcflashpro.com

 

 

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Electrical Safety Specialists
Office: (816) 925-0443

Greg Windisch
Cell: (913) 594-2228
gwindisch@qualifiedtrainings.com

Doug Tellin
Cell: (816) 868-5294
dtellin@qualifiedtrainings.com