2018 has arrived, and for us here in the USA, it has arrived with a cold vengeance, with 95% of the country below freezing on January 1st, some with bitterly cold conditions as low as -40° F wind chills. As we hunker down with our coffee and hot chocolate, we might do well to consider the electrical safety goals of our companies.
2017 brought a lot of international travel for me, completing electrical safety audits, teaching electrical safety classes, and performing code-compliance inspections. I always find it interesting to see how each country approaches electrical safety, with their various regulations and requirements. It is fascinating to learn how a country’s regulations may be a smorgasbord of directives from other countries that were put into place during invasion, war and/or occupancy. This perspective places electrical and maintenance departments in unique positions when it comes time to evaluate their Electrical Safety Program.
One common thread that pertains to all the plants I’ve been to is electricity respects no cultural, regulatory, or any other type of boundary. Electricity kills and maims in every country with similar mechanisms of injury – burns to the exterior, often from clothing fires due to arc flash; and external/internal burns from shock, burning pathways as the electricity seeks a return path to its source.
Fatalities From Electrical Exposure
In 2017, Great Britain suffered eight fatalities from electrical exposure, either by “contact with electrical sources or electrical discharge”. In the United States, the newest data collection summary by the ESFI (Electrical Safety Foundation International) includes 2015 data, which shows a much higher fatality rate from electrical exposure, with 134 deaths. Perhaps the highest electrocution rate in the world is in India; electrocution took the lives of 9606 people in 2014.
Regardless of what country you find yourself working or living in, as I stated before, electricity does not care. We all must continually reassess our behaviors and work practices.
Keep Electrical Safety Goals in Mind
One goal is obvious: We do not want to give electricity or the energy released in an arcing event access to the body. If this pathway is arrested, the worker can walk away from an unplanned electrical or procedural failure unharmed, or in the worst case, with minimal injury. Almost all electrical injuries and fatalities can be taken care of by taking some simple steps, such as wearing proper voltage-rated electrical gloves and wearing non-melting fabrics as base layers under arc-rated electrical PPE.
. Different factors have contributed to this trend, not the least of which is the implementation of safety programs, complete with training, audits, and PPE use. A well-trained workforce with access to proper procedures, PPE, and the ability to recognize and mitigate electrical hazards will serve to continually reduce these types of events, with the ultimate goal always being a zero-electrical-injury workplace.
So I ask you, where does your company stand on its journey to a zero-electrical-injury work environment? Recently at e-Hazard, we began our own journey to further assist current and future clients by the creation of the E-Hazard Safety Cycle™. As you look at this circular approach of continuous electrical improvement, it becomes easy to discern where your company may fall in comparison to a robust electrical safety program. The questions that arise are simple to assess:
- Do you have a written and up-to-date electrical safety program?
- Do you have a current electrical safety training program that incorporates the latest updates from OSHA, NFPA 70E®, British standards, or the local standards of your country/region?
- Do your electrical employees have the proper electrical personal protective equipment? This includes properly-rated and tested electrical safety gloves and properly-rated electrical clothing. (This means arc-flash rated or tested in accordance with ASTM-F1506 or the standard your country adopts. IEC 61482-1-2 is the standard in European Union countries.) See this blog post for a comparison of testing methods.
- What is the condition of your electrical equipment (switchgear, circuit breakers, busducts, etc.)? When is the last time the equipment was put through a proper maintenance event?
- How would your facility hold up to an electrical audit? (Using NFPA 70E®, OSHA, the National Electrical Code [NEC] in the USA, British BS 7671 “Requirements for Electrical Installations”, or similar codes of practice in Singapore, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, etc.)
- Can your employees effectively perform a risk assessment on electrical tasks that you as an employer expect them to perform?
These and a host of other similar questions are a good starting point to consider as we begin the 2018 work year.
Our Wish For You
As mentioned above, zero injuries and zero fatalities in our electrical world are in fact possible with proper job planning and safe work habits.
I do hope the best for all of our readers, and certainly want you and your coworkers, employees, and contractors to have a very prosperous and Electrically-Safe New Year. This sentiment is a sincere one shared by the entire staff a e-Hazard!