Posted: March 18th, 2023
OSHA Electrical Safety
Occupational Safety & Health Administration — OSHA electrical safety standards have been formulated to safeguard workers from risks of electrocution, electrical fires and other explosions related to electrical equipments. Implementations of these safeguards have been done as any fault due to electrical causes can pose a serious hazard to a workplace. Electrical safety hazards are delineated in appropriate OSHA electrical safety standards for the general industry as a whole and also specific industry like shipyard and marine terminals. The OSHA regulatory guidelines are contained in the OSHA standards. The Regulatory Agenda containing the details of actions that are taken as regards OSHA standards, Federal Registers with its rules, proposed rules and notices, directives for Compliance Officers, standard interpretations and the national consensus standards linked to hazards related to electricity and electrical equipments. (Electricity Forum, 2012)
The electrical safety standards promulgated by OSHA are intended for industrial, commercial and institutional electricians, mechanics and electrical engineers who are required to be adequately trained in very part of safety, maintenance, and functional methods so as to perform their assigned duties in a proper manner on high-tech electrical gadgets and systems of the current era. The OSHA 2 CFR 1910.331-335 stipulates safety related work practices for professional and non-professional workers. These regulations include the scope, substance and needs for training and outline qualified and unqualified employees. Work practices related to safety practices adopted cover having knowledge and recognising energized and de-energized components, lockout and tagging and minimum distances from where equipments can be approached. (Electricity Forum, 2012)
Electrical Injury Causes:
OSHA has discovered that the most recurrent reasons behind electrical injuries are (i) coming in close contact with power lines (ii) not de-energising electrical circuits and equipments prior to working on them (iii) absence of ground-fault protection (iv) the path to grounding is absent or it is discontinuous (v) the equipment is used otherwise than what is stipulated in the OSH guidelines (vi) faulty use of extension and flexible cords. As per the OSH standards employers should not allow an employee to work in areas that are near energised electrical conductors or circuit components carrying electricity at 50 volts or higher. Also the employer should not allow an employee to discharge his duties in conditions in which electrical hazards might be there. (American Pipeline Contractors Association, n. d.)
Authorised workers during installation of electric equipment should adopt safety standards and minimum prescribed distances must be adhered to. Besides, equipments or circuits that have been de-energised should be made non-operational. These non-operational items should have tags affixed to them at all points in which such equipment or circuits can be energised. Special safety measures must be undertaken while working on overhead lines. One should never touch a conductor lying on the ground even though it might not be emitting sparks or producing a humming sound as touching could be deadly. (American Pipeline Contractors Association, n. d.)
Policy Guidelines of OSHA for Electrical Safety:
OSHA’s Electrical Standard contained in 29 CFR 1910. 331 through 335 relate to electrical related work practices covering inspection procedures and interpretive guidelines. The standard for Electrical Safety-Related Work Practices was formed on August 6, 1990 and became operational since Dec 4, 1990. The present electrical standards contained in Subparts of the General Industry Standards include electrical equipments instead of work practices. New rules have been framed that addresses practice and methods required for safeguarding employees working on or in close proximity to energised and de-energised components of electric OSHA Instruction STD 1-16 dated 1.7.1991. (United States Department of Labor, 2012)
The amended rule also sets out uniformity and lowers redundancy among the general industry standards. The amended regulation is based more on the NFPA 70E Part II. During Sept, 1989, OSHA established an overall standard governing the control of hazardous energy, i.e. 29 CFR 1910.147. The standard deals with practices and methods which are essential in order to de-energize machinery or electrical apparatus and to check the release of potentially dangerous energy at the time of undertaking of maintenance and servicing activities. (United States Department of Labor, 2012)
As regards the inspection guidelines are concerned, the Compliance Officer shall integrate inspection processes for this standard along with those contained in 29 CFR 1910.147. (i) Every employee who encounter a risk of electric shock, burns or other related injuries, not reduced to a secure level by the safety needs of Subpart S, should be trained in safety-related work practices needed by 29 CFR 1910.331-335. (ii) Apart from being trained in and conversant with safety related work practices, untrained employees should be imparted training in the innate dangers associated with electricity i.e. high voltages, electric current, grounding, arcing and absence of guarding. Besides, any electrically associated safety practices which are not separately dealt in by Sections 1910.331 through 1910.335, but required for safety in specific workplace conditions must be included. (United States Department of Labor, 2012)
(iii) the training of professional employees should cover at least (a) the capability of telling apart exposed live components from other components of electric equipment (b) the skill to find out the nominal voltage of components that are live (c) the idea regarding clearance and approach distances stated in 1910.333(c) (iv) While making inspections by walking around, it will be the Compliance Officers who will evaluate any electrical-related work being done to locate conformance with the employer’s written processes as needed by 1910.333(b) (2)(i) and the complete safety-linked work practices enshrined in Sections 1910.333 through 1910.335. (v)Most importantly, any violations detected should be recorded properly including the real voltage level. (United States Department of Labor, 2012)
Electric Safety Hazards Outlined in OSHA:
OSHA standards include a lot of electrical hazards across different industries. OSHA’s electrical safety standards covering general industry are released in “Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations — CFR Part 1910.302 through 1910.308- i.e. Design Safety Standards for Electrical Systems and also 1910.331 through 1910.335 — Electrical Safety Related Work Practices Standards. Electrical Standards of OSHA are based in the National Fire Protection Association Standards NFPA 70, National Electric Code and NFPA 70E, Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces.” (Chao; Henshaw, 2002)
Besides, OSHA has electrical safety standards for the construction industry as well contained in 29 CFR 1926, Subpart K. The standards specified by OSHA aims at the design and application of electrical equipment and systems. The standards include just the exposed or functional elements of an electrical installation like lighting, equipment, motors, machines, appliances, switches, controls and enclosures, needing that they should be built and installed so that the workplace electrical hazards are minimised. This apart, the standards mandate that some recognised testing organizations undertake tests and approve electrical equipment prior to using the same in the workplace in order to guarantee that it is safe. Guarding is another procedure helping in prevention of electrical hazard. Guarding entails finding out or enfolding electrical equipment and ensuing that people are prevented from accidentally coming in contact with its live components. Efficient guarding needs equipment having exposed components functioning at 50 volts or higher to be kept wherein it is accessible just to people who are qualified to work with the same. (Chao; Henshaw, 2002)
The ideal locations are room, vault, gallery or a raised structure like a platform. It can also be a site having an elevation of 8 feet or more from the floor level. Besides, strong permanent screens can also be used an effective guards. Areas having hazardous electrical installations must contain conspicuous signs posted at the entrance points of electrical rooms and other guarded locations of similar nature so as to caution people to the electrical hazard and to prohibit entry of unauthorised persons. Accidents caused due to electricity are usually preventable through adoption of safe work practices administered by OSHA. Instances of these practices cover: (i) de-energising electric equipment prior to inspection or repair. (ii) proper maintenance of electric tools and equipments (iii) to be vigilant while working near energised lines (iv) use of appropriate protective equipment. (Chao; Henshaw, 2002)
General Items of Electrical Safety:
A lot of safety measures need to be adopted as working with electricity can be hazardous. Electrical engineers, linesmen, electricians and other people work with electricity directly which puts them at increased risk of exposure of electrical hazards.
Electrical safety and appropriate caution need to be taken for working with the following: (i) Generators: It is one of the routine tools used following disruption of power. However, caution needs to be exercised while using them as generators use gasoline as fuel through internal combustion to produce electricity. During running of a generator carbon monoxide is released that can reduce oxygen utilising ability of humans causing severe health hazards and can prove fatal also. A lot of safety measures need to be adopted while using generators like (i) never bringing a generator indoors and ensuring that it is placed outdoors where the exhaust gases are not able to enter a home or building. (ii) Ensuring that the primary circuit breaker is in OFF position and locked off before starting the generator set. Adoption of this practice will ensure that accidental energization of power lines from back feed electrical energy from generator. Hence this will help in safeguarding utility line workers from possible electrocution. The generators need to be turn off and allow them to cool prior to refuelling. (Occupation Safety and Health Administration, n. d.)
(ii) Power lines: Safety measure are required to be adopted from overhead and underground power lines as they carry very high voltage current. Fatal electrocution is the main impending risk as also burns and falls. The safety precautions that are required to be taken are (a) Overhead and underground power line indicators need to be looked. (b) it is important that one stays 10 feet at the minimum from overhead power lines and take for granted that they are energised. (c) Lines need to be de-energised and grounded when people are working in close proximity. (d) While working near power lines, use of non-conductive wood or fibreglass ladders need to be used. (Occupation Safety and Health Administration, n. d.)
(iii) Extension Cords: Wear and tear from routine uses can render the cords to be loose and expose them. Cords which are not of 3-wire types and are not suitable for rigorous use, or which have been modified raise the risk of contacting electrical current. It is important to adhere to the following (a) Use of equipment which has received the approval of aligning with OSHA norms. (b) Cords should not be altered or used them in an incorrect manner (c) Cords that are factory assembled must only be used as also extension cords that are 3-wire type. (d) Cords, connection devices and fitting which are capable of strain relief should be used only. (e) Care must be taken to remove receptacles by pulling on the plugs & not the cords. (Occupation Safety and Health Administration, n. d.)
(iv) Equipment: Because of the rough nature of construction work, routine use of electrical equipment renders normal wear and tear. This causes drop-outs in insulation, short-circuits, and also results in exposed wires. Absence of ground-fault protection can trigger a ground fault transmitting current through the body of the worker. The following safety precautions need to be undertaken (a) Use of Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters — GCFI in every 120-volt, single-phase, 15 and 20 ampere receptacles. Alternative using Assured Equipment Grounding Conductor Program — AEGCP will also be beneficial. (b) Use of two-core insulated tools and equipment which are distinctively marked (c) it is important to have a visual inspection of all electrical equipment prior to use and looking for any equipment with damaged cords, missing ground prongs, broken tool casings etc. (Occupation Safety and Health Administration, n. d.)
(v) Electrical accidents: In cases where the power supply to the electrical equipment has not been grounded, or the path has been dropped out, fault current might pass across the worker’s body giving electrical burns or loss of life. Even if the power system is adequately grounded, electrical equipment can immediately alter from safe to hazardous due to extreme conditions and improper handling. The following safety measures need to be adopted (a) Undertaking of a visual inspection before use and remove any defective equipment from being used (b) it is important to ensure that all power systems, electrical circuits and electrical equipments are grounded. (c) Regular inspection of electrical systems to assure that the path to the ground is continuous. (d) Ground prongs should not be removed from cord and plug connected apparatus as also extension cords. (e) Use of double-insulated tools is important and every exposed metal parts of equipment need to be grounded. (f) Avoiding standing in damp and moist regions while using portable electrical power tools. (Occupation Safety and Health Administration, n. d.)
American Pipeline Contractors Association. (n. d.) “Tool Box Safety Topic”
Retrieved 28 April, 2012 from http://www.americanpipeline.org/ToolBox/English/ElectricalSafety.pdf
Chao, Elaine L; Henshaw, John L. (2002) “Controlling Electrical Hazards”- OSHA”
Retrieved 28 April, 2012 from http://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3075.pdf
Electricity Forum. (2012) “OSHA Electricity Safety” Retrieved 28 April, 2012 from http://www.electricityforum.com/forums/osha-electrical-safety.html
Occupation Safety and Health Administration. “(n. d.) OSHA Fact Sheet.”
Retrieved 28 April, 2012 from http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_Hurricane_Facts/elect_safety.pdf
United States Department of Labor. (2012) “OSHA Fact Sheet: Working Safely with Electricity” Retrieved 28 April, 2012 from http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/electrical/index.html
United States Department of Labor. (2012) “U.S. Department of Labor Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Washington D.C. 20210 OSHA Instruction STD1-16.7 Jul 1, 1991 Directorate of Compliance Programs”
Retrieved 28 April, 2012 from http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document-p_table=DIRECTIVES&p_id=1750
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