May is Electrical Safety Month

It shouldn’t be a shock to realize that following some basic safety precautions can prevent electrical injuries in the workplace. During Electrical Safety Month this May, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) offers some tips to keep workers safe from on-the-job electrical hazards.

According to ESFI, more than 46,000 workers suffered electrical injuries within the last decade, and nearly 300 workers die every year from exposure to electrical hazards. In light of these risks, ESFI offers some tips to prevent electrical injuries:

De-energize Equipment – Working on energized equipment greatly increases the risk of injury and death. Power down whenever possible.

Lockout/Tagout –Lockout/tagout procedures safeguard workers from the unexpected energization or startup of machinery and equipment and also can prevent the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities. ESFI points out that complying with OSHA’s lockout/tagout procedures prevents an estimated 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries each year. Even so, too many workers remain at risk by not following these procedures. Failure to comply with OSHA’s lockout/tagout standard regularly is listed as one of the agency’s top violations.

Arc Flash Prevention and PPE – According to ESFI, about 2,000 workers are admitted to burn centers each year for treatment of severe arc flash burns. Arc flashes may occur spontaneously or result from conductive dust buildup or bridging electrical contacts with a conducting object. While PPE should always be the last line of defense, wearing proper equipment – such as flame-resistant shirts and pants, safety glasses, face shields and more – can help protect workers in the event of a momentary electric arc, flash fire or exposure to energized equipment.

Work Permits – Work permits should be used when performing work on parts that cannot be de-energized or when testing, troubleshooting or measuring voltage. Work permits include information such as why and how the work will be conducted, safe work practices, appropriate PPE, details about possible hazards and who is authorized to perform the work. These permits require workers to define their work, provide justification for performing it on energized equipment, select proper PPE, define boundaries to prevent unqualified workers from being exposed to hazards and requiring approval to perform the work energized.

“We’re very excited about this year’s campaign,” ESFI Director of Programs Christopher Lindsay told OccupationalHazards.com. “In addition the workplace safety, we’re focused on the electrical hazards commonly found in our aging homes.”

Workplace Toolkit

According to ESFI, every 30 minutes, a worker is injured so severely by electricity that he or she requires time off away from work. To help prevent those injuries, and to promote awareness of electrical hazards, ESFI currently is developing an electrical safety workplace toolkit. Among other resources, the kit will include a DVD covering four major topics: NFPA 70E; electrical safety for industrial and construction workers; job planning for qualified persons and work permits; and de-energize and test before you touch.

“This has been an industry-wide collaborative effort, and we’ve been really excited about it,” Lindsay said.

He pointed out that the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) supported the toolkit, while various safety services and corporate safety directors also made contributions to the project. The kit, which will be launched in June, primarily focuses on the industrial/manufacturing setting, but also includes a segment for construction safety.

Lindsay said the most valuable part of this workplace toolkit may be that it acts as a refresher of key principles. “If you follow the basic principles every time, you’ll never become one of the statistics,” he said.

Phil Allen, president of Grace Engineered Products, also stressed the importance of Electrical Safety Month.

“While the tide is turning on how companies view safety, it is important to remember – especially during National Electrical Safety Month – that incorporating safety is necessary because there are people involved,” he said.

For more information about Electrical Safety Month, workplace electrical safety and tips to prevent electrical hazards in aging homes, visit http://www.esfi.org.

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