Safety in the Workplace

From OSHA to NFPA, exploring the keys to electrical safety in a retail environment.

By Joe DeMonte

Are you safe? Workplace safety in retail environments should be a common topic for every employer. Periodic training, safety seminars, daily safety discussions and safety briefings prior to working a job are just a few of the ways that safety touches all workers. We are taught to wear our appropriate safety glasses, hard hats, footwear, fall protection, hearing protection, etc. Most employees are aware of general safety requirements for walking and working around the store, but what about electrical safety anywhere that electrical conductors and components exist? To whom does this topic apply? What are the training requirements for the personnel that could be affected by electrical accidents such as an arc flash or electric shock?

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is the organization that we are familiar with for helping the employer and employees understand the requirements for a safe workplace. OSHA documents such as 29 CFR 1910 (Safety and Health Regulations for General Industry) and 29 CFR 1926 (Safety and Health Regulations for Construction) address the safety requirements for many topics including electrical safety. 

OSHA 29 CFR 1910 addresses the needs for electrical safety training, especially those under “higher than normal risk of electrical accident.” Table S-4 in this document lists the following job types as being at higher than normal risk of electrical accident and required to have safety training:

• Blue collar supervisors.

• Electrical and electronic engineers.

• Electrical and electronic equipment assemblers.

• Electrical and electronic technicians.

• Electricians.

• Industrial machine operators.

• Material handling equipment operators.

• Mechanics and repairers.

• Painters.

• Riggers and roustabouts.

• Stationary engineers.

• Welders.

The list includes a number of job categories that are not considered as electrical workers. Safety training applies to many different job positions. 

OSHA 29 CFR 1910 also lists a document from the National Fire Protection Association, titled NFPA 70E, as a reference to help comply with electrical safety. This electrical safety standard is currently used to help employers create and maintain a safe work environment. NFPA 70E defines the electrical hazards that exist, how to mitigate employees risk and how to comply and maintain employee safety with regards to electrical hazards.

Another key to electrical safety is electrical maintenance. In 2015, NFPA points out that a very strong tie exists between safety and properly maintained equipment. One of the key electrical maintenance recommended practice is NFPA 70B. This recommended practice defines what maintenance tasks should be performed on the various electrical components found in any typical installation. If a company is not performing electrical maintenance along with properly installed equipment, the electrical safety program is not complete. 

The Risks and Potential Fines Associated With Non-Compliance

If you experience a workplace injury or fatality, you can expect a visit from OSHA. In addition, they can verify whether you are compliant with electrical safety.

OSHA cited a New York electric company in 2009 for 14 alleged serious violations of safety standards after a company employee was burned in an electrical arc flash. The incident happened when employees were performing maintenance on 34,500-volt electrical switches and transformers.

OSHA’s inspection determined one of the switches had not been de-energized before employees began their work, and the switches hadn’t been properly barricaded and tagged to prevent exposure to live electrical parts.

OSHA also found the injured worker and other employees were not adequately informed about/ supplied with appropriate personal protective clothing. Nor had they been adequately trained in electrical safe work practices and in proper hazardous energy control procedures.

In this case, OSHA proposed $88,200 in fines. However, the fines for a fatality begin at $750,000. The costs for improper electric management practices are far greater than just dollars and cents.

What steps do the employer, employee, and equipment owner need to put in place for electrical safety? Start with an understanding of the electrical safety standards and electrical maintenance recommended practices. After all, safety is everyone’s responsibility.

 

NFPA 70E and NFPA 70B documents can be accessed for free at www.nfpa.org.

OSHA 29 CFR 1910 and 1926 can be accessed for free at www.osha.gov.

 

Joe DeMonte is director, technical services, for ABM Franchising Group. Email the author at joseph.demonte@abm.com. Learn about upcoming NFPA safety trainings at NFPA.TEGG.com.

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