Electrical Safety

Healthy Products, Unhealthy Electrical Safety Work Practices

A 20-year-old employee at a manufacturer of rice cakes and other snack products was shocked while performing service work on an electrical panel on August 18, 2014. The employee missed 2 days of work. After hearing of the injury, OSHA inspected the facility and identified several problems with the employer’s electrical safety work practices.

OSHA doesn’t care how healthy your end product is: If you’re creating a hazard for workers, they will cite you. The Agency’s investigation found that the manufacturer failed to implement basic electrical safety-related work practices required by 29 CFR 1910.333 and to provide the personal protective equipment (PPE) required by 29 CFR 1910.335. Here’s how you can improve your company’s health by avoiding the same mistakes.


The worker was not wearing PPE when he opened the electrical panel. Any worker who will work on live electrical equipment must be equipped in accordance with OSHA’s requirements found in 29 CFR 1910.335, the PPE standards found in Subpart I, and the applicable NFPA standards. This includes head, eye, and face protection, but for electrical exposures it also includes items like insulated tools and equipment, fuse handling equipment, protective shields, protective barriers, and insulating materials.

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No Training

OSHA’s training requirements for electrical workers in general industry are found in 29 CFR 1910.332. Workers who will come into contact with exposed live parts must be trained in electrical safety-related work practices, as well as in:

  • The skills and techniques necessary to distinguish exposed live parts from other parts of electric equipment,
  • The skills and techniques necessary to determine the nominal voltage of exposed live parts, and
  • The clearance distances specified in 1910.333(c) and the corresponding voltages to which the qualified person will be exposed.

Training may be provided in either a classroom or an on-the-job setting.

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Inadequate Clearance in Front of Electrical Panels

The manufacturer was also cited for failing to maintain adequate clearance in front of electrical panels. The rules for work space around electrical panels are found in 29 CFR 1910.303. The working space around the panel that must be kept clear:

  • Must be at least as wide as the equipment.
  • Must allow the equipment doors to open at least 90 degrees.
  • Must extend from grade to at least the height of the equipment, unless the equipment exceeds 6.5 feet in height.
  • Must not be used for storage.
  • Must be at least 3-feet deep; for some equipment, the depth must be 4 feet

Tomorrow, we’ll look at another problem OSHA discovered when it inspected the manufacturer’s facility: amputations.