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The benefits of an electrical assessment

November 1, 2011

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Question: What are the benefits of having an electrical assessment performed in your workplace?

Responding is David Sklodowski, product marketing manager, Honeywell Safety Products, Northford, CT.

Simply stated: Safety, compliance and efficiency. Safety is a key benefit of having an electrical assessment performed in your workplace. Once you have had an electrical assessment performed, you can implement an effective electrical safety program that will keep your workers safe from life-threatening injuries and death. As part of your electrical assessment, hazards in your workplace will be identified so you can mitigate them. For example, an arc flash is a dangerous release of energy created by an electrical fault. An arc flash can reach extreme temperatures and cause fatal burns at a very short distance from the arc. Thousands of arcs per year result in burns to electrical workers. Of these burns, a large number result in an employee being admitted to a burn center for treatment. Many of these burn victims never return home. Ultimately, your electrical workers and their families will appreciate the safe work environment you have created for them.

Although keeping your workers safe is a significant benefit to having an electrical assessment performed, the necessity to be compliant with today’s regulations also will pay great dividends. A simple Internet search of “electrical safety OSHA fines” yields numerous results on very costly fines imposed by OSHA to companies not in compliance. These fines can easily climb into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, which quickly outweighs the expense of having an electrical assessment performed.

You may be asking yourself, “What does OSHA require with regard to electrical safety?” OSHA states in 1910.303(e) that employers are required to identify electrical equipment with descriptive markings, including the equipment’s voltage, current, wattage or other necessary ratings. OSHA believes this information, along with the training requirements for qualified employees, will provide your workers with the information to protect themselves from arc flash hazards.   

Additionally, in 1910.335(b), OSHA requires employers to use alerting techniques (safety signs and tags, barricades, and attendants) to warn and protect employees from hazards that could cause injury from electric shock, burns or failure of electric equipment. Although these Subpart S electrical provisions do not specifically require electric equipment to be marked to warn of arc flash hazards, 1910.335(b)(1) requires the use of safety signs, symbols or accident-prevention tags to warn employees about electrical hazards that may endanger them.

According to 1910.145, OSHA defines specific requirements that employers must adhere to in order to create a safe workplace. Further definition of the guidelines for a safe electrical workplace is clearly defined in NFPA 70E, which provides tables, charts and personal protective equipment necessary to keep you in compliance. 

Implementing and maintaining an electrical safety program will ultimately result in a more efficient business. The goal of an electrical safety program is to prevent incidents that lead to costs and loss of productivity. Employees who are hospitalized or killed cannot continue to perform their duties.

Having an electrical assessment performed and using it to implement an electrical safety program does not guarantee incidents will never happen. However, with an accurate electrical assessment and an actively maintained electrical safety program, the chances of incidents occurring can be minimized and, in the event of an incident, the consequences can be less severe.

Editor’s Note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as National Safety Council endorsements.

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