OSHA Outlook: Arc Flash Among Topics to Watch in 2014
Violating workplace safety standards established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) can mean heavy fines for institutional and commercial facilities. So as 2014 begins, maintenance and engineering managers must pay particular attention to developments related to OSHA standards involving arc-flash incidents, hazardous chemicals, ergonomic injuries, and workplace violence.
OSHA has placed increased emphasis on safety standards for arc-flash incidents since 2007. But plenty of companies are also still catching up on the topic as well, says David Casavant, executive director for the Sustainable Workplace Alliance, a non-profit organization in Orlando, Fla., which provides health, safety and compliance consulting to U.S. companies. OSHA's arc-flash enforcement priorities include establishing hazard-analysis programs, providing flame-resistant clothing for front-line technicians, and labeling electrical panels properly.
"One thing I do see in audits for companies — a lot of folks don't have an arc-flash program in place, or there is no protection for workers, and it's sad to see," Casavant says.
While technicians are vulnerable to arc-flash hazards, many managers say they have never heard of them, Casavant says, adding that the dangers are real.
"When your maintenance guy is working in front of a panel and that energy doesn't dissipate 360 degrees, it comes straight out of the wall," he says. "That wall deflects or forces everything into the chest of a maintenance worker, which is dangerous."