How to ensure your electrical safety program is driving compliance in 2019

Ensuring compliance with an electrical safety program isn’t always easy, but there are plenty of tools available to help you succeed.

As a safety manager, your job is not only to be prepared and consistent with regards to all aspects of plant safety, but also to make sure that everyone else – from management through to janitorial and office staff – prioritize safety as much as you do. Being proactive will result in your facility being in compliance – or not – as well helping to avoid serious injuries and fatalities around the workplace.

A good place to begin preparation is in places that are frequently overlooked. OSHA’s top cited violations tell us that electrical safety falls into this category. Being knowledgeable on the latest updated standards can help modernize your electrical safety programs, while also providing opportunities to address evolving safety concerns with employees so that all are up-to-date on best practices in electrical safety and incidents are avoided.

As one example, OSHA found failing to properly control energy accounted for nearly 10 percent of serious accidents in many industries. Realizing that its existing measures weren’t enough, OSHA recommended the creation of NFPA 70E, a requirement for safe work practices to protect personnel by reducing exposure to major electrical hazards.

OSHA’s general duty clause requires facilities to provide employees with a place of employment that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious harm.” While NFPA 70E is a voluntary standard, with its compliance not required by law, it effectively describes electrical hazards and best practices to mitigate them. Because OSHA regulations are not frequently updated, they will often reference consensus standards such as NFPA 70E as a best practice when issuing citations to the general duty clause.

Implementing NFPA 70E In Your Facility

NFPA 70E helps facilities and employees avoid workplace injuries and fatalities due to shock, electrocution, arc flash, and arc blast during maintenance and construction in industrial plants. There are a couple of areas where you will need to update training procedures within your facility in order to comply with NFPA 70E:

An example of lockout/tagout

Lockout/Tagout (LOTO). Every year workers are unnecessarily exposed to hazardous energy sources during servicing, maintenance, or setting up equipment. By implementing a lockout device to ensure that equipment on the energy isolating device cannot be operated until the lockout device is removed and a tagout device to indicate that an energy isolating device may not be operated until the tagout device is removed, risks such as injuries, asset damage and production downtime are diminished.

When it comes to implementing a LOTO program to adhere to NFPA 70E, three types of employees need to be covered:

  • Authorized Employees are responsible for implementing energy control procedures and performing the required servicing or maintenance. Training for Authorized Employees includes details about the type and magnitude of the hazardous energy sources present at the facility, and the methods for isolating and controlling these energy sources. Authorized Employees must also receive training on machine-specific procedures.
  • Affected Employees operate equipment or work in an area in which an energy control procedure is being implemented. Affected employees are not themselves responsible for locking and tagging out, but must understand their purpose in order to avoid attempts to start up or use equipment during these procedures.
  • Other Employees include office or warehouse personnel who may work in an area where an energy control procedure is utilized.

Verifying Absence of Voltage. When electrical maintenance is needed, NFPA 70E requires that workers establish and verify equipment is in an electrically safe state. This involves a test for absence of voltage. Although NFPA 70E is comprehensive around LOTO guidelines and the need to first verify the absence of voltage, it does not articulate the removal of hazards before this maintenance or inspection begins, therefore increasing risk to the electrician. Eliminating a hazard is the most effective method according to the hierarchy of controls, and should be the first choice whenever possible. NFPA 70E emphasizes the need to work on electrical systems only when they are placed in an electrically safe working condition, but creating and verifying this condition requires more than just de-energizing, as it involves multiple steps to confirm the system is safe and to verify the absence of voltage.

Absence of Voltage Testers (AVTs) are permanently-mounted testing devices that are specifically designed to determine if a circuit part is de-­energized prior to opening panels or removing covers to access and maintain electrical equipment. They are designed to automatically run internal diagnostics and administer the live-dead-live type of verification testing with an internal known voltage source and actively indicate the absence of voltage. AVTs also help improve electrical safety through a Prevention through Design approach, making them an ideal option for maintenance and service professionals.

While training can deliver the results a facility is looking for, every plant is different and safety professionals should seek out third-party support in order to better understand the latest standards that can keep them in compliance. For more information on best practices for implementing a modernized safety program, read our new eBook How Understanding the Hierarchy of Controls can Lead to Reduced Electrical Incidents.

Five OSHA Regulation Changes That Could Impact Your Facility This Year

Hardhats in a row at a job site.
OSHA’s $5 million budget increase could suggest an increase in regulatory actions, inspections, and citations, as the organization has regulatory changes in store for the year ahead.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) fiscal year 2019 budget, according to Industrial Safety and Hygiene News, increased by $5 million over 2018 to reach a $557.8 million total. This increase could suggest an increase in regulatory actions, inspections, and citations, as the organization has regulatory changes in store for the year ahead. While these safety regulation updates and additions are spread across several industries, here are five that workers and facilities should be prepared for.

IEEE 1584-2018

Published just before December of last year, this Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers guide for performing arc flash hazard calculations was significantly updated from IEEE 1584-2002.

Related to the method for calculating the arc flash hazard distance and the incident energy to which employees could be exposed during work on or near electrical equipment, designers and facility operators in facilities where live work is performed on electrical equipment need to become especially familiar with this change. With arc flash hazard calculations being implemented in most plants because of OSHA regulations, this new model accurately accounts for a wide variety of setup parameters.

Employers should be sure to confirm that an arc flash risk assessment has been done within the last five years. Calculations are most often listed on arc flash and equipment labels and are used as part of an arc flash risk assessment. Updates to labels to reflect new calculation requirements may be necessary depending on the results of the arc flash assessment.

Increased Fines

To adjust for inflation, and as required by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, OSHA has increased the maximum civil penalties on employers cited for safety violations. The annual penalty increases are required by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 (ACT) and apply to Federal OSHA states. Information on the change can be found here.

Random Inspection

Late last year OSHA announced it would implement its Site Specific Targeting 2016 inspection plan, which applies to non-construction workplaces with more than 20 employees. Employers who failed to provide 2016 Form 300A data to OSHA will be selected at random and added to an inspection list combined with employers who reported high rates of days away, restricted, or transfer in 2016. OSHA will include a random sample of employers with low rates to the list. The collected data will be used to create inspection lists.

Drone Inspection

Midway through 2018 OSHA began gradually implementing a new policy of inspecting workplace inspections utilizing drones. The organization issued a memo authorizing compliance officers to inspect areas that are inaccessible or pose a safety risk, with 2019 being the first full year of this practice being implemented. Compliance officers must obtain consent from an employer and notice must be provided to employees before the drone is launched.

Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses

For workplaces with 250 or more employees, OSHA now only requires an electronic submission of OSHA Form 300A. Facilities should continue to record workplace injuries and illnesses and follow reporting requirements, but OSHA amended its record-keeping regulation to remove the requirement to electronically submit information from OSHA Form 300 (log of work-related injuries and illnesses) and OSHA Form 301 (injury and illness incident report). However, the requirement to keep and maintain OSHA Forms 300, 300A, and 301 for five years is not changed.

Keeping up with regulations and requirements is key to avoiding shut downs and lost business costs. By implementing policies, holding staff accountable, and staying abreast of safety regulations you can positively contribute to your business’ bottom line. For more tips on how to optimize safety practices in your facility, read our white paper Six Keys to Managing Workplace Electrical Safety.

New NFPA 70E Labeling Requirements

The NFPA 70E Standard provides guidelines for electrical safety in the workplace. Recently this standard has been updated to provide consistency of terms with other standards that address hazards and risk.

Some of these changes introduced new terms such as arc flash risk assessment to replace arc flash analysis and shock risk assessment to replace shock hazard analysis.

Determining the Arc Flash Risk Assessment and Shock Risk Assessment for electrical devices provides important information to warn of the specific risks associated with an energized piece of equipment. This information is communicated to workers through the use of equipment labels.

In Section 130.5(D) of the 2015 NFPA 70E Standard new requirements for Arc Flash Warning Labels are explained.

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Safety in the Workplace

Recently we had the opportunity to guest write on Thorne and Derrick’s blog.  Below is what we published on the topic of Safety in the Workplace!

You may ask yourself why you need a safety services program in your organization?

It’s expensive, I need additional staff, and we haven’t had an incident yet…YET is the key word! It’s time to start being proactive instead of reactive! In addition to the numerous industry-wide standards for hazardous energy, electrical safety and environmental standards, the safety of your workplace and personnel should be a top of mind concern.

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Reduced Inefficiencies = Job Site Productivity

Efficiency is quickly becoming the mantra across construction organizations. Even minor variances in construction practices can affect profit. All components need to be designed and engineered for productivity, reliability and safety in order to meet or exceed industry standards and pass inspections. Mistakes on the job site cause delays or rework which increases overall project costs and can lead to missed deadlines:

  • Time lost when people, materials, or equipment are kept waiting
  • Poor handling of materials and equipment around a site
  • Excess materials not needed
  • Unsafe job site conditions due to improper grounding, arc flash hazards, worker injury/fatigue

Panduit can help you improve productivity, reliability and safety – with a full solution of over 30,000 available parts engineered to reduce installation time and costs, improve operational performance, and meet or exceed industry standards.

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Importance of Lockout/Tagout

Lockout/Tagout is a process to control energy hazards for preventing accidental start-up or release of stored energy during set-up, maintenance and servicing of equipment. OSHA outlines this safety method in standard 29 CFR 1910.147 (“Control of Hazardous Energy”). Lockout/Tagout is a widely accepted practice for companies in the United States.   OSHA advises US companies, “Workers servicing or maintaining machines or equipment may be seriously injured or killed if hazardous energy is not properly controlled. Injuries resulting from the failure to control hazardous energy during maintenance activities can be serious or fatal! Injuries may include electrocution, burns, crushing, cutting, lacerating, amputating, or fracturing body parts, and others….Craft workers, electricians, machine operators, and laborers are among the 3 million workers who service equipment routinely and face the greatest risk of injury. Workers injured on the job from exposure to hazardous energy lose an average of 24 workdays for recuperation.” Here are 3 examples of accidents due to a lack of Lockout/Tagout practices:

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Safety Is Key When It Comes To Construction

April 23rd is this year’s Construction Safety Day.  The first step in making the construction industry safer is to understand the biggest threats. Balancing worker safety, productivity and equipment optimization starts with establishing a strong safety infrastructure. Panduit’s Safety Solutions not only offer safety products, but encompasses safety services and safety training as well.

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