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August 22, 2019

Keep Your Whole Team Safe from Electrical Workplace Hazards

Keep Your Whole Team Safe from Electrical Workplace Hazards featured image

Electrical hazards are common and severe risk factors in workplaces of all kinds. Protecting employees requires the creation of comprehensive safety programs.

A "Danger: High Voltage" sign

What do your employees need to know about electrical safety?

Electricity is one of the major workplace hazards present in just about any professional environment. When electrical equipment is a major component of your company’s work, safety precautions take on serious importance. In terms of both regulatory compliance and simple accident minimization, your organization should have a fully developed set of precautions in place.
Such a comprehensive electrical safety program should cover every element of preparedness, from putting environmental features into place to training employees on all aspects of their personal safety. When workers who might encounter electrical risks are skilled at recognizing hazards, performing tasks safely and using the correct equipment, the likelihood of suffering a damaging workplace accident can decrease significantly.

What Does OSHA Say About Electrical Safety?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s requirements for both construction and general workplaces prominently mention electrical hazards and the related risks. Getting in line with the applicable standards for your organization type is an essential way to both avoid potential OSHA penalties and give your employees a safe environment in which to perform their duties. As there are many ways in which electrical equipment can put workers in danger, the relevant standards and procedures are wide-ranging.
For instance, OSHA’s handbook to help company owners get in compliance notes that all employees should be required to report a potential electrical hazard as soon as they spot it. To maximize the impact of such a rule, workers need to be able to quickly recognize when something is wrong with electrical systems. Furthermore, whenever personnel begin work on electrical equipment, they should perform overviews to make sure the assets have been shut down and made safe. In some cases, this means locking out the equipment to prevent it starting up, or tagging out when a lockout isn’t possible.
Any tool with an electrical cord can be a safety risk if its wires are damaged, or if there is water in the area. OSHA’s safety checklist urges workplace leaders to think about environmental hazards around handling electrical gear, and to make certain the assets are in good working order. Even common tools such as metal ladders can suddenly become environmental hazards if they’re deployed in areas where electrical currents are present.
OSHA also calls for all electrical gear to be attached to circuit breakers and disconnecting switches. Electric motors should have these shut-off systems within sight of the engine, so if something goes wrong and a person is exposed to harmful current from that source, workers will have an easy time cutting off the current and potentially preventing additional damage.

An electrical circuit overloads.Electrical risks in various workplaces may take many forms.

What Are the Electrical Safety Training Requirements?

OSHA’s general industry safety standards include a few stipulations about workers who need to be trained in electrical safety. Beyond the electrical installation requirements, there are rules for professionals who don’t install relevant equipment but are still in comparable amounts of day-to-day danger. Named professionals that fall into this category include supervisors in blue-collar workplaces, technicians, engineers, electricians, machine operators, mechanics, painters, riggers, welders and more.
Due to the fact that employees work with a wide range of potentially hazardous equipment and assets, OSHA’s requirements are based on the performance of everyday tasks and roles. Workers should be prepared to handle every kind of electrical exposure danger they face when completing their work.
OSHA has added stipulations for people who are either non-qualified to work with exposed energized parts or approved to operate near these assets. Workers in the former group should receive training beyond OSHA’s workplace standards for their roles if the included practices are necessary for their day-to-day safety. People in the latter group also need to be prepared to recognize live currents, check voltage and understand the distance to keep between themselves and parts of various voltages.

What Types of Electrical Safety Training Courses Are Available?

Due to the depth and breadth of sub-topics within electrical safety, you’ll find there are a variety of training courses available to protect your personnel from the related hazards. The following are just a few examples of these lessons, to demonstrate the impressive range of such offerings:

  • Electrical Safety for Everyone: This course, as the name implies, is very general in its scope. Both in terms of roles and hazard types, this is a high-level overview of electrical shock causes and response strategies. Everyone uses electricity in some capacity, so this course provides the basics for any employee.
  • Electrical Safety: Arc Flash: Shocks aren’t the only type of danger that comes with electrical elements in the workplace. This course covers a second type of danger, known as an arc flash. As with shocks, arc flashes are potentially deadly.
  • Safe Electrical Work Practices and the 2018 CSA Z462: For Canadian workers, this course presents electrical safety based on the CSA standard Z462.

Finding the right mixture of safety training for your workplace may prove crucial in both preventing OSHA fines and protecting your employees from the common risks associated with electrical assets.

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