Is Your Electrical Systems Safe?
Electrical systems are among the most important in any facility, while also being one of the most dangerous. Improperly designed electrical systems can cause a wide range of different issues in the facility, ranging from having no power to frequent power outages, and even causing damage to the machines that rely on having a clean, consistent power source.
In addition, some electrical problems can make it hazardous for employees working around the systems that are in place. This is why OSHA has developed the general standards that can be found in section 1910.303. Whether installing a new electrical system, updating an existing one, or performing any type of maintenance, it is important to be aware of, and follow the regulations in this section.
Common Area of Citation
Many facilities mistakenly believe that because they have a qualified electrician on site to perform their electrical installations, they will be in compliance with the OSHA regulations. The fact is, however, that in 2010, electrical system design was the 9th most commonly issued citation by OSHA.
This makes it clear that a large number of facilities are operating in conditions that are not nearly as safe as they may have thought. Of course, since OSHA can only inspect a small number of the facilities in operation, this is likely an even larger issue than most people would expect. With this in mind, it is important to review some key points from this set of standards, and learn how to improve the general electrical safety of your facility.
Wire Insulation & Protection
One of the most important areas to address when running new electrical systems is the insulation and protection of the wiring. While most wires will come with some insulation, it is often necessary to add additional protection depending on the situation in the facility.
For example, if the wiring will be going through an area where excessive heat is present, some sort of heat shielding or additional insulation should be added to help protect the wiring. Similarly, any areas where sharp edges could come in contact with the wiring, the wiring should be run through a protective pipe.
Labeling the Wiring
Another important safety consideration when working with electrical systems is keeping everyone informed of what electrical system is in place. Since the wires may be going through pipes, or wrapped in protective tape, it is essential to use high quality labels that will display necessary information in an easy to ready way.
The specifics of the labeling can vary from location to location, but the important thing is to provide as much information about the electrical system as possible. For example, printing off printable shrink tube stock with a LabelTac printer will identify how much current is going through a particular set of wires is very important.
This will not only help keep people safer while working in the area, but it will also be useful for determining whether the wires contains the right about, too much, or too little electricity to operate a specific machine. Some other things that should be labeled on the wiring include the following:
- Purpose of the Wiring – Let people know where the electrical system being labeled is going. This will help when troubleshooting power outages, or surges, throughout the facility.
- Date of Installation – Knowing how old a general electrical system is can be helpful when planning upgrades.
- Warnings – Listing any warnings, such as the wiring not being insulated against high heat, is an important step in ensuring people don’t install a high heat producing machine in the area.
- Criticality – Labeling whether a power source is going to a machine or area that is critical to the facility is a good idea. This will help ensure the maintenance staff take extra precautions before cutting the power.
- Electrical Cutoff Loads – Identifying how much electricity can travel through a particular electrical system before the fuse or other cutoff will occur is also very important. This will help when you are working on adding additional machines or other things that will draw electricity.
Of course, you’ll have to come up with your own list of things that you want listed on any labeling you place on general electrical systems. Taking the time to make an internal standard regarding what information will be put on every electrical system, and how they will be labeled is a great way to help keep everyone in the facility as safe as possible.
How to Properly Label Electrical Systems
It can often be difficult to properly label electrical systems, because the wiring can be quite thin. Fortunately, this type of concern can be overcome by using an in-house industrial label printer. LabelTac printers, for example, allow you to print labels that are virtually any size, which makes them perfect for this type of use.
You can print off a long, thin label that will allow you to convey the information quite easily. Another great option is to print off a larger label, and have it folded over the wires so that it appears like a tag. This makes it easy to read the label and learn the necessary information concerning the electrical system in question.
High Voltage Areas
Whenever setting up or updating an electrical system that requires high voltage, you will need to make sure that proper labeling and signage is put up. The primary type of hazard communication used in these situations is a sign or label on all the entrances to the area that reads, “DANGER – HIGH VOLTAGE.”
These signs or labels can also be placed within the room, especially on areas where the actual high voltage is present. The important thing is to make sure everyone is aware when there is an area where the risk of electrical shock is especially high, and when that shock is strong enough to severely injury or kill someone.
In most situations, high voltage areas will also need to have a ‘kill switch’ that will shut off all the power to the room immediately. These switches should also be labeled clearly so people know what they are, and how to use them. Of course, it is best to avoid using them unless there is an extreme emergency as high voltage areas are typically critical for the operation of most facilities.
General Electrical Safety Guidelines
Whenever work needs to be done on or around an electrical system, it is important to make sure everyone in the facility knows about the safety guidelines that are put in place by OSHA. In addition, they need to know where the danger exists and how to avoid it.
This is most often accomplished by using safety signs and labels throughout the facility to draw attention to any electrical hazards. Along with the signs, however, it is also a good idea to hold safety classes or seminars to help teach everyone in the facility how to stay safe when working with electrical systems.
This is, after all, one area of the facility where even a tiny mistake can lead to extreme injuries and fatalities. There is literally no room for error when it comes to electrical system safety, so make sure to take the necessary time to read through the Electrical Systems Design (General) – 1910.303 section of the OSHA guidelines and put them into practice in your facility.