A well-developed safety program, in this case an electrical safety program (ESP), is crucial for protecting the most important part of any corporation; employees. The ESP must involve all levels of employees in order to identify and correct issues. The goal of the ESP should be to proactively address workplace hazards which is a more effective approach than reacting to injuries and fatalities caused by those hazards. An employer is required by NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace to implement and document an overall ESP that directs activity appropriate to the risk associated with electrical hazards.
For those who need to start an ESP, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration identifies 10 steps to help get the ball rolling:
- Always set safety and health as the top priority – assure employees that getting them home safely is a priority.
- Lead by example – make safety part of your interaction with employees and practice safety yourself.
- Implement a reporting system – encourage reporting of any safety issue without fear of reprisal.
- Provide training - train employees on how to identify and control hazards.
- Conduct inspections - Inspect the workplace with employees and ask for about their concerns.
- Collect hazard control ideas - Ask employees for improvement ideas and follow up on their ideas.
- Implement hazard controls – Task employees with choosing, implementing, and evaluating their solutions.
- Address emergencies - Identify foreseeable emergency scenarios and develop what to do in each case.
- Seek input on workplace changes - Before making significant changes, consult with employees to identify potential issues.
- Make improvements - Set a regular time to discuss safety and health and identify ways of improving the program.
An ESP must also be documented. Once you’ve started down the path with the above 10 steps, NFPA 70E lists specific items that must be part of an ESP. Remember that a standard is a minimum set of requirements and much more can be included. An ESP may be more effective when it is implemented as part of an overall occupational health and safety management system. NFPA 70E requires that the following items be addressed by an ESP:
- Inspection – Safety relies on verifying that that newly installed or modified electrical equipment or systems complies with applicable installation codes and standards prior to being placed into service.
- Condition of Maintenance – Electrical safety is greatly impacted by the condition of maintenance of electrical equipment and systems.
- Awareness and Self-Discipline – Employees must be instilled with an awareness of the potential electrical hazards and the self-discipline to control their own safety when working around electrical hazards.
- Principles – The EPS must identify the principles upon which it is based.
- Controls – The EPS must identify the controls by which it is measured and monitored.
- Procedures – Procedures detail the tasks to be conducted. Documented procedures must be in place before work is started by employees exposed to an electrical hazard.
- Risk Assessment Procedure – Procedures for shock and arc flash risk assessments procedures must documented.
- Job Safety Planning and Job Briefing - Before starting each job that involves exposure to electrical hazards, a job safety plan and a job must be conducted.
- Incident Investigations – Elements for electrical incident investigation must be included and should address incidents that do not result in injury.
- Auditing – A method for auditing the ESP, as well as field audits of employee performance of tasks must be included.
It is always a good idea to begin with a basic program then let it grow. Continuous improvement is important. By achieving modest goals, monitoring performance, evaluating outcomes, and implementing improvements, higher levels of safety can be achieved.
By using NFPA 70E and visiting the OSHA web page at www.osha. gov/shpguidelines, you should be able to develop a well-thought out electrical safety program. The main goal of a safety program is to prevent workplace injuries and fatalities. Remember, electrical safety doesn’t only affect the employer and the employee, but the employee’s family burdened with the suffering and financial hardship cause by injuries and fatalities.
For additional information and resources related to NFPA 70E, check out our blog series on NFPA Xchange.