Safety organizations such as OSHA provide helpful guidelines and standards to protect employees from occupational hazards while on the job. One of the leading occupational hazards includes the use and consumption of electricity. Electricity is used by nearly every industrial business worldwide. Electricity not only powers equipment, but also provides employees with lighting, HVAC, and most other modern day conveniences. However, even though electrical energy is a widely accepted method of power, it does not discount its potentially lethal effects when used inappropriately or when it is not properly monitored and maintained.
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Many of the standards related to electrical safety are located within the general industry section 1910 and there are further standards for shipyard employment in section 1915, and marine terminals in section 1917. When digging further into section 1910 related to the general industry portion there are several safety practices outlined, some of which include the following:
· 1910.137 – Electrical Protective Devices: This section features all the necessary design requirements of protective equipment such as gloves, matting, and insulation blankets. These protective devices serve as barriers to separate electricity from a person or surface.
· 1910.269 – Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution: This section describes the safety provisions for the proper maintenance and operation of specific electrical equipment for power generation such as fuel handling, water and steam insulations, and hydrogen systems among others.
· 1910.304 – Wiring Design and Protection: This section outlines the requirements for the grounding of specific conductors. Grounded conductors must not be connected to any terminal, and must be able to be easily identified when among other non-grounded conductors.
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· 1910.332 – Training: OSHA recommends training for employees who are at risk for electric shock that is not or cannot be reduced to a safe level. These trained employees must be able to clearly identify live electrical parts, determine nominal voltage, and also be familiar with all other electrical safety practices.
· 1910.335 – Safeguards for Personal Protection: This section outlines the need for personal protective equipment. Protective equipment should be periodically tested and deemed safe and reliable for electrical protection. Employees should also have access to such equipment as needed and required.
Recognizing Electrical Hazards
Electrocution is ranked as one of the top causes of occupational injuries or deaths each year. Why is this? Some of those injuries and deaths may be attributed to employees not being aware of potential electrical hazards within their work environments, when employees are unaware of such electrical hazards, the risk for electrocution skyrockets. In order to offset the cause of such adverse effects, solutions such as grounding, guarding, and insulation along with other safe work practices should be implemented and followed.
Even though OSHA provides very helpful, pertinent information for electrical safety, if the recommendations are not implemented or followed, the risk for injuries due to electrical hazards will grow exponentially. There are currently 25 states including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands that have enacted OSHA State Plans as well as their own specific state standards and requirements as well. Become familiar with OSHA’s electrical safe practice recommendations and commit to a safe work environment.