Your employee trusts that you are committed to ensuring their safety. They do not expect to be injured while they are at work. Your roll in meeting this expectation should not be taken lightly. Your commitment to electrical safety will go a long way to getting every one of them home each day. Let’s look at some things that could affect your employees trust based on what NFPA 70E® is trying to accomplish.
Beyond the expectation that you will properly train and qualify employees for any assigned task, NFPA 70E requires a lot of you. Go under the assumption that there is justification for energized work to be conducted. What do you do? Most of the requirements apply if there is shock or arc-flash hazard. Someone must determine this fact. Your own company may do this or it may hire one out of the vast number of companies that claim to be able to do this. You must be competent in being able to determine who is capable of doing a proper risk assessment. You could go with the lowest bidder, most local company, best presentation, longest history, or any other criterion. Your employee will trust that whomever you selected to perform the assessment was competent.
You may have jumped the starting gun by going right into that first step. What happens if your company has never conducted equipment maintenance? Without maintenance even normal operation of the equipment may be putting your employees at risk of an injury. A risk assessment is not done correctly if equipment maintenance has not been addressed. Your employee expects that their interaction with electrical equipment will not harm them. Your employee will trust that the protection techniques that they rely upon to minimize their injury in an incident are not based on the clearing time of a circuit breaker not operated in many years and never maintained.
Your employee will trust that the risk assessment was not a one-time-and-done evaluation but that you have properly used the hierarchy of risk controls to minimize the electrical hazard and the risk of injury as much as possible. Your employee will trust that you have not automatically defaulted to the lowest level of risk control. Personal protective equipment should never be the first or only protection scheme that you utilize. Your employee will trust that you have done everything possible to protect them.
Your employee will trust that you have kept all pertinent information on the equipment label updated. They will expect that the information provided is correct when they are assigned an energized task on that equipment a few years later. They will trust that you made sure that a transformer was not swapped out for a more efficient one or that the upstream breaker was not replaced with something different. Your employee will trust that the label information is correct since they will be the one to suffer a greater injury if it is not.
Your employee will trust that you will provide them with the appropriate protective equipment. They will trust that you have verified that the protective equipment indeed complies with the applicable standard. They will trust that they have not been given knock-off, counterfeit, or sub-standard equipment because it was less expensive than conforming equipment. Your employee will trust that when it comes to their protection that money is no object.
Your employee will trust that you have proper documentation of the risk assessment, complete and current work procedures, and a work permit that defines the hazards, risks and assigned task. Without clear direction, an employee will be improvising their actions in the field. Human error is a major cause of electrical incidents and your employee will trust that you minimize the possibility of an error through a proper electrical safety program and training.
When your employee is schedule for the task, they will trust that you are concerned for their safety. If the task cannot be conducted safely, if the work permit or job briefing are lacking, if the employee feels that they are unqualified or fatigued, or if they express any safety concern, your employee will trust that you will consider these issues above all else. They will trust that they are the most important asset within your company.
When it comes to performing justified energized electrical work your employee needs to trust you. If an employee is injured because they were compelled to work, they were not properly equipped or qualified, or finance took priority over their safety, employee trust will quickly fade. The work environment has taken a bad turn if the next employee goes into a task expecting to be harmed. It is the employee’s life that is at stake when they put their trust in you during justified energized electrical work. You must earn and keep that trust.
Next time: Who needs to read the words that are included in a standard?