OSHA Standards Cover Electrical Hazards in Many Facilities
Part 2 of a 4-part article on arc flash compliance
OSHA standards cover many electrical hazards in many types of facilities. OSHA’s general industry electrical safety standards are published in Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations, parts 1910.302 through 1910.308 — Design Safety Standards for Electrical Systems, and in parts 1910.331 through 1910.335 — Electrical Safety-Related Work Practices Standards.
OSHA’s electrical safety standard 1910.333(a) states that, “Safety-related work practices shall be employed to prevent electric shock or other injuries resulting from either direct or indirect electrical contacts, when work is performed near or on equipment or circuits which are or may be energized. The specific safety-related work practices shall be consistent with the nature and extent of the associated electrical hazards.”
These electrical standards are based on National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standard NFPA 70E, Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces. NFPA 70E is a voluntary consensus standard that provides additional best practices for electrical safety. Although OSHA did not adopt NFPA 70E and does not enforce it, OSHA can use the standard as evidence of a recognized electrical hazard in the workplace, which can lead to a citation.
NFPA 70E includes safe work practices to protect personnel by reducing exposure to major electrical hazards. Originally developed at OSHA’s request, NFPA 70E helps companies and employees avoid workplace injuries and fatalities due to shock, electrocution, arc flash, and arc blast, and it assists in complying with OSHA 1910 Subpart S.
NFPA 70E 2015 has basic requirements for addressing electrical safety in a facility:
- arc-flash assessments and reviews every five years
- written safety programs and procedures
- only qualified persons working within the limited approach boundary of energized parts
- documentable and demonstrable proficiency in electrical safe work practices for qualified persons
- retraining every three years
- annual audits of employee performance
- certified training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and automatic external defibrillators annually.
The 2015 edition of the NFPA 70E standard also finds that managers can achieve safe work conditions through engineering controls and through hazardous energy control procedures or lockout/tagout procedures. While these are the most effective ways of reducing arc-flash risks, it is not always possible or advisable to work on de-energized equipment. For example:
- when de-energizing introduces additional hazards or increased risk to workers
- when de-energizing is not feasible due to equipment design or operational limitations
- when equipment operates at less than 50 volts (V) where it is determined that there is no increased risk due to arc burns or explosions
- during normal operations where proper engineering controls are in place and there is no evidence of impending failure.
If a facility finds that a situation involves one or more of the first three criteria, managers must implement proper personal protective equipment (PPE) measures in conjunction with the components of the facility’s electrical safety program. It is also important that managers recognize that the process of making electrical equipment safe to work on — creating a zero energy state via lockout/tagout — is still considered energized work until the authorized employee has proven otherwise. Without this verification, shock and arc-flash protection equipment is required until verification is made.