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OSHA Electrical Safety Standards

Last updated: Oct 21, 2020

Working in an environment that is safe and healthy is not a privilege but a right of every worker regardless of industry. To ensure this, there are multiple agencies, authorities, and governing bodies throughout the world that enforce worker health and safety laws and regulations. One such organization which we are going to talk about today is OSHA.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an agency of the United States, Under the Department of Labor, and was created by Congress in 1971. OSHA’s job is to protect workers and their health at work. In 1971, after the deaths of 14000+ workers on the job, OSH Act was enforced to provide a secure and healthy working environment by the enforcement of laws and standards and by the provision of training, education, and support.

The OSH Act states:

“To assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women; by authorizing enforcement of the standards developed under the Act; by assisting and encouraging the States in their efforts to assure safe and healthful working conditions; by providing for research, information, education, and training in the field of occupational safety and health.”

MISSION:

The main task for OSHA is to avoid and prevent recognized hazards that might cause injuries, diseases, and deaths related to a working environment. OSHA aims to allow employers, government agencies, professional groups, medical and educational organizations to collaborate with OSHA to avoid recognized hazards.

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OSHA STANDARDS:

There are certain safety practices and training requirements by OSHA which are called OSHA Standards. These standards are organized into five major categories:

  • General Industry
  • Maritime
  • Construction
  • Agriculture
  • Federal Employee Programs

All these categories have regulations that are referenced in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), which is the codification of rules and regulations published in the Federal Register by the executive departments of the federal government of the United States. Title 29 of the CFR, which includes all the OSHA standards and regulations, is reserved for the U.S Department of Labor.

The regulations in the CFR by category type are as follows:

​​Industry ​Reference
General Industry​​ ​part 1910
Maritime part 1915, 1917 and 1918
Construction part 1926
Agriculture ​​part 1928
Federal Employee Programs ​​part 1960

OSHA STANDARD FOR ELECTRICAL SAFETY:

Regulations for electrical safety can be found in different standards:

General Industry Standards

​​SUBPART CLAUSE
Subpart I – Personal Protective Equipment 1910.137, Electrical protective equipment
Subpart R – Special Industries ​​1910.269, Electric power generation, transmission, and distribution
Subpart S – Electrical ​​1910.301 – 1910.399

Maritime Standards

​​SUBPART CLAUSE
1915 Subpart L – Electrical Machinery 1915.181, Electrical circuits and distribution boards
1917 Subpart G – Related Terminal Operations and Equipment 1917.157, Battery charging and changing

Personal Protective Equipment:

OSHA makes sure that workers are physically protected by enforcing the usage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE for short). This is to reduce the chances of damage or harm to occur to any person working in a hazardous situation where the hazard cannot be predicted, mitigated, or is ever-present. Employees must be trained on how to use the PPE. They should be told why the use of PPE is necessary before they start the job for which it has been provided.

There are 4 different categories of personal protective equipment required in case of an arc flash hazard. Read about it in our blog An Overview of 4 Different Arc Flash PPE Categories.

Where PPE is provided, it must be used as instructed. Employers should make sure that the PPE they purchase complies with the relevant OSHA standards. PPE must be stored in a clean and working condition and should be easy to find in need. It must be inspected regularly to make sure it is in good working order and defective or damaged PPE must be reported at once. It must be tagged (to prevent its use until it has been repaired) or thrown away and replaced.

Personal protective equipment can include a lot of gear, most common of which are:

  • overalls and protective aprons
  • protection headgear - safety helmets, wide brimmed hats to protect against the sun
  • safety boots or shoes
  • safety glasses or goggles
  • gloves
  • respirators and masks
  • earmuffs and earpieces

Quick Cards:

OSHA also has “Quick Cards” which can act as a general guidance for any situation for example:

OSHA-Quick-Card

Burns, shocks and electrocution are all results of Electrical hazards.

  • Overhead powerlines must be assumed to be energized to lethal voltages. Downed lines, even if insulated, must never be touched.
  • Fallen lines must be reported to the electric utility company.
  • Stay at least 10 feet (3 meters) away from overhead wires during clean-up and other activities. In presence of overhead lines, the work area must first be surveyed to stay clear of the lines while performing work.
  • In case an overhead line falls on your vehicle while you are inside, stay inside the vehicle and continue to drive away from the line. If the vehicle stalls, do not leave it and warn people not to touch either the vehicle or the downed line. Contact the local electric utility company or emergency services.
  • Employees must wear PPE for the face or eyes wherever there is danger of injury to the face or eyes from electric arcs or flashes or from flying objects resulting from short circuit or electrical explosion
  • Electrical equipment must never be operated while standing in water.
  • Ask a qualified electrician to inspect electrical equipment that has gotten wet before using it.
  • When working in a location that is damp, electric cords and equipment must be inspected to ensure they are in good condition and free of defects.
  • Always use caution when working near electricity.

NFPA STANDARD FOR ELECTRICAL SAFETY IN THE WORKPLACE

Other standards and regulation governing bodies also provide guidance related to worker protection, such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) which has a detailed Electrical code for Electrical safety in the .

There are about 300 codes and standards published by NFPA to lower the chances of fire hazards and their effects.

NFPA code 70E, aims to provide employers the help to avoid workplace injuries and fatalities due to arc flash, shock, electrocution, and helps them to comply with OSHA 1910 Subpart S and OSHA 1926 Subpart K

NFPA 70E suggests safe work practices for workers exposed to electrical hazards as well as provides safe work practices for the following scenarios:

  1. When installing conductors or equipment that connect to the electric supply
  2. Installations used by the electric utility that are not a part of a generating plant, substation, or control center

REQUIREMENTS:

Conducting regular meetings is a basic and strongly encouraged requirement to discuss health and security issues related to the workplace but is not necessary for small businesses. Workplace inspection should be carried out to find possible risks and all training and accidents must be documented. Employees must follow guidelines and standards set by OSHA and must use protective equipment, report injuries, and hazardous circumstances, and take care of their health and those around them.

Companies and industries also need to be careful about violating any OSHA regulations. Doing so can inflict heavy fines and penalties upon the company. Check out our blog on OSHA violations.

There are state-level OSHA requirements that allow states to develop programs to suit them better than federal requirements. About 24 states and 2 territories of the US have their safety programs but are in many ways similar to the federal programs.

INJURIES AND ACCIDENTS:

In workplaces, most of these injuries include:

  • slips, trips and falls
  • muscle strains
  • hit by falling objects
  • repetitive strain injury
  • crashes and collisions
  • cuts and lacerations
  • inhaling toxic fumes
  • exposure to loud noise
  • getting stuck in or struck by moving machinery
  • transportation and vehicle-related accidents
  • explosions
  • overexertion and repetitive stress injuries

Unsafe working conditions increase the chances of accidents.

OSHA SAFETY MEASURES TO PROTECT WORKERS:

Employer responsibilities:

Employers have the responsibility to provide a safe workplace. Employers must make sure that the workplace they are providing does not have to pose any threats to the safety or health of their employees and must conform with OSHA standards. In case any health or safety hazards are found during a routine inspection, employers must eliminate them according to OSHA standards. Using safer chemicals, harmful fume extraction, or using ventilation systems to clean the air are some ways of ways to get rid of or minimize risks.

Employers must also:

  • Make sure employees are aware of hazards through training, signs, alarms, color-coded systems, chemical information sheets and other methods.
  • Keep a record of all injuries and illnesses that occur at work.
  • Perform tests in the workplace, such as air sampling required by some OSHA standards.
  • Provide hearing exams or other medical tests required by OSHA standards.
  • Post OSHA citations, injury and illness data, and the OSHA poster in the workplace where workers will see them.
  • Notify OSHA within 8 hours of a workplace incident in which there is a death, or three or more workers go to a hospital.
  • Not discriminate or retaliate against an employee for using their rights under the law.

Duties of employees:

Safety of workers can be ensured if workers took care of their own and other employee's health and safety by cooperating with anything that the employer does to comply with OSH requirements. Employees must ensure the safety of other employees by not intentionally or recklessly misuse anything provided at the workplace. An employee should know how to handle any unfortunate circumstances in the workplace.

Employee involvement in safety planning:

Security of employees can be enhanced by involving them in safety planning. The better the workers know, the better their response can be.

Employee feedback:

Employees can contribute to safety culture of workplace if and only if their fresh thoughts about safety will get attention and concern by employer.

Give clear working instructions:

Employer should make sure that employees understood all safety instructions by reviewing and confirming that they know what they are being told.

Positive reinforcement:

Employees who are performing tasks in instructed manner should be praised and those who are taking shortcuts that could reduce safety should be fined or punished.

Machine maintenance:

Employer must ensure that all machinery is in good state and working order. This can be done with the help of a routine maintenance program.

Safety meetings:

Safety meetings deal out important safety measure information to company employees and give them a chance to ask questions about communicating polices and monitoring the safety program. These meetings also talk about shop-safety rules, emergency procedures, and hygiene.

Cleanliness at workplace:

Maintaining a clean working environment by removing clutter and other safety issues will help employees to be more creative and disciplined at workplace.

Preemptive measure:

By routine inspection of workplace regularly, an employer can identify any unnecessary risk.

Safety guidelines review:

Inspection of workplace and safety program is necessary as with each new day we face new challenges or risks that can only be handled by polishing the safety standards.

Workers’ health and safety must be taken seriously by every employer and that is only possible when one is aware of the laws and regulations concerning one’s business.

We hope this article proves to be helpful for our readers. Please feel free to give your valuable suggestions in the comments below. Thank you.

REFERENCES:

  1. https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/electrical/standards.html
  2. https://www.osha.gov/Publications/all_about_OSHA.pdf
  3. https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/oshact/section_1
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