OSHA says that most electrical servicing and repair tasks should be limited to workers who have been fully trained on electrical hazards and procedures. Today our Safety Training Tips editor tells you what the rest of your workers need to know about electrical safety.
Who’s “unqualified”? Because of the potential for fatal accidents when electricity is concerned, OSHA says that only “qualified” workers can perform electrical maintenance and repairs (29 CFR 1910 Subpart S). OSHA defines qualified workers as those who have been fully trained to identify exposed live electrical parts and their voltage, and who have learned exactly what procedures to follow when they work on exposed live parts or are close enough to be at risk. Everybody else is “unqualified,” and you don’t want any of them messing around with electrical wiring or trying to repair electrical equipment.
The following case from OSHA’s fatal accident files says it all:
- An employee decided on his own initiative to fix two lighting fixtures that weren’t working. Unfortunately, he hadn’t bothered—or known enough—to shut off the power at the circuit breaker panel. Nor had he tested the wires to see if they were live. They were, and he was electrocuted.
According to NIOSH statistics, you have to be particularly concerned with new hires and young male employees when it comes to unqualified workers making unauthorized electrical repairs. A NIOSH study identified 41 percent of workplace electrocution victims as people who’d been on the job less than a year, and 64 percent were males under the age of 35.
What do unqualified workers need to know? Although you don’t want unqualified workers performing electrical work, those who have a job that might expose them to the risk of electrical shock, need some electrical safety training, too. They have to know:
- Electrical hazards in the workplace
- Procedures to follow to protect themselves when they work around electricity
- Tasks can only be performed by qualified workers (e.g., maintenance and repairs)
- How to report electrical problems
- What to do in the event of an emergency involving electricity
Which points should you emphasize in training? Here are the electrical safety basics all unqualified employees should know:
- Inspect electrical tools and equipment before use to make sure insulation and wiring are in good condition.
- If a piece of electrical equipment shocks, smokes, smells, or sparks, turn it off, tag it out, and report it to your supervisor. Don’t use it!
- Check plugs to make sure you have a good, tight connection.
- Outdoors or in wet areas use only cords that are approved for use under these conditions, and plug into a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).
- Don’t touch anything electrical with wet hands or while standing in a wet area.
- Don’t contact anything electrical with anything metal.
- Use only insulated, nonconductive tools around power sources.
- In areas with flammable liquids, vapors, or combustible dust, use only electrical cords and equipment identified as safe for that use.
- Make sure equipment doesn’t spark or get hot enough to ignite flammable or combustible materials in the area.
- Don’t overload outlets, circuits, or motors.
- Don’t let grease, dust, or dirt build up on electrical equipment.
- Keep electrical equipment well-lubricated to prevent overheating.
- Don’t reach blindly into a space that may contain energized parts.
- Use extension cords only if necessary and when rated high enough for the job.
- Don’t fasten electrical cords with staples, nails, or anything that could damage the insulation.
Why It Matters…
- Electrocution is a leading cause of death in the workplace.
- More than half of those deaths are caused by two things—defective electrical equipment and failure to follow safe procedures.
- Accidents involving electricity can cause fires that can damage your facility and injure or kill employees.
- Because almost every job—even an office job—involves some contact with electricity, all employees should recognize electrical hazards and know how to prevent electrical accidents.
- May is National Electrical Safety Month.
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