When running any type of industrial facility there are many different hazards that need to be considered. Throughout the facility there are risks with everything from large machines to the toxic chemicals being used, and many more. With all these risks, some safety or facility managers don’t put an emphasis on electrical safety, which can be a big mistake.
In most facilities the electrical situation is just one of those things that doesn’t get much attention. As long as the lights turn on, and the machinery is getting power, nobody really has to give it a second thought. The fact is, however, that throughout facilities there are often dozens of different high voltage areas that could be potentially dangerous. If the facility doesn’t take a proactive approach to them, it could cause significant damage to the facility, as well as life threatening injuries to employees.
The Risks of Electrical Problems
One major reason why it is important for all industrial facilities to focus on electrical safety is because the risks are so significant. When something goes wrong regarding electricity, it is almost never going to cause a minor injury or small mechanical problem. Electrical dangers can cause immediate death to people, and costly damage to machinery, which is why avoidance is so important.
In addition, there is often little warning of electrical problems, so people don’t know to be extra careful. Electrical wires and other materials are not thought of as threatening, because when functioning properly there is little risk. This can often cause people to forget about the deadly nature of electricity, which can quickly cause problems.
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Focusing on Electrical Safety
There are many different things a facility should do to help improve the overall electrical safety of a facility. The first step needs to be recognition that this is an area of concern throughout the facility. Knowing that electrical dangers could occur just about anywhere is a good first step. Identifying the real risks, however, isn’t always quite as simple. The following are a few important things any facility can do to help avoid electrical accidents:
- Education – Since there are undoubtedly electrical wires and other potential areas of risk throughout the facility, it is important to have everyone working together to identify risks. This starts through educating all employees on the types of things that may indicate an increased risk of electrical problems. Frayed or damaged electrical cords, for example, should be reported to the safety team. If someone sees an extension cord going across an area where people walk or vehicles drive, they should also report that. Helping people understand what should be reported, and to whom, is a great place to start.
- Frequent Inspections – Having regularly scheduled safety inspections is another important step for electrical safety. In most cases, it is best to just include the electrical safety checks in with other standard inspections. This will help to ensure it can be done on a regular basis, and eliminate the waste that would come with having multiple different inspections occurring in the same area. Of course, there are specific electrical areas that may need their own inspection schedule, and when necessary, that should be done as well.
- Looking for Symptoms – In some facilities there are electrical problems that cause damage to machinery or other items, but aren’t diagnosed properly. If, for example, an area is going through light bulbs much more quickly than they should, it could be an indication of an electrical issue. Checking the electricity in that area will not only help to reduce the expense of replacing the bulbs, but could also protect people or machinery from more significant problems in the future.
- Standardize – Another great way to prevent electrical problems is to have electrical safety standards in place. For example, rather than using extension cords to get power where it is needed, a facility should run a proper electrical outlet to the location. This can prevent accidents as well as make it more convenient. Having the power cords run according to approved standards will also reduce the chances of problems from occurring. In addition, the use of electrical safety signs (such as this sign) in all areas containing electrical hazards should be implemented. This creates a cohesiveness among all electrical hazards so employees are urged to use proper caution in such areas and are familiar with the designated signage.
Electrical Safety Equipment
While many of the problems occur when people aren’t expecting them, there is also a risk of electrical injury or accidents when people know they are working with dangerous electrical equipment. Certain types of welding machines, for example, use high levels of electricity. Also, working with circuit boxes and running new electrical lines are also things that are often done in facilities, and can be risky.
In order to prevent accidents or injury, people working in these roles need to be using the proper electrical safety equipment. This could be something as simple as approved rubber gloves (like these long high voltage gloves) that won’t conduct electricity, or even a full safety suit that is designed for use with electricity.
Another excellent way to reduce the risk of electrical shock is by using the lockout/tagout system. This safety system physically removes the power source from a machine before anyone goes in to work on it. The power supply is locked out, and the person who is working on the machine has the key. This will help to prevent someone from accidentally restoring power before the person is ready. Things like this can help to dramatically reduce the risk of electrical shock when working in these types of areas.
Custom Safety Solutions
While many of the items mentioned in this article can be used in virtually any facility, it is also important to come up with custom safety solutions for each individual facility. Finding what areas are at the most risk, and coming up with a solution to improve the electrical safety will help to avoid accidents and injuries so everyone can be safer at work.