In fact, unique risks are present when the electrical utility bill is one of the smaller budget items, as is the case in warehouses, silos, and logistic operations. This, together with the rather infrequent performances of electrical operations, leads certain businesses to underplay the true risk of injury due to electricity. It sometimes creates a belief that they do not have to hire a qualified electrician or a qualified and legally compliant electrical contractor for such simple tasks.
It has been observed (via auditing) that non-electrical, unqualified personnel have been called upon to perform electrical work. This is indeed a recipe for disaster! Some nationwide organizations hire a single electrician to service multiple facilities; this also presents its own risks.
An unqualified worker may not be aware of the life-threatening risks from a task perceived to be “simple” or “routine.” Further, how can there be an expectation for an unqualified electrical worker to identify specific maintenance criteria for electrical equipment? Also, allowing unqualified electrical workers to undertake troubleshooting and repairs exposes the organization not only to risk of damage, but also possibly tort in the event of an incident.
Having one electrician service a geographically wide area implies that there will be travel time between sites. This can lead to protracted outages. In such cases, it is possible that a warehouse would rather ask an unqualified worker to perform a “simple” electrical task than wait several hours or a day for the electrician to arrive.
Hiring a local contractor instead? How would an organization verify that the contractor is indeed less of a risk and has all legal requirements in place? There are contractors that don’t meet these minimum legal requirements!
Fortunately, if an incident has not already occurred, there is time to remediate–but businesses should act in haste. Persons who operate electrical equipment such as breakers, disconnects, and similar equipment should attend Task-specific operator training.
The electrical safety training is followed up by an arc flash engineering study. This study quantifies the possible arc flash energy capable of being released from electrical equipment. One of the outcomes from the engineering study is equipment labeling. This will inform unqualified electrical workers of the dangers of possible arc flash energy release and possible exposure to shock. It also supports management in determining whether arc rated protective clothing and personal protective equipment (PPE) may be required.
Keep in mind that it is not the duty of the unqualified workers to bring these electrical risks to the attention of management. It is actually management’s responsibility to create awareness of such electrical hazards and address these appropriately. Article 100 in the NFPA 70E®-2015 refers to the property owner as an authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). The AHJ is responsible for enforcing consensus standards, codes, and operational procedures. The Canadian equivalent standard, CSA Z462-2015, states the same.
With the uptick in electrical consulting work in the areas of warehousing, silos, and logistic operations, a more detailed article is being drafted to address several factors that were not addressed in this write-up. Keep a lookout for that article!