Electrical Checklist: Quality Control for Your Workplace
Electrical Hazards Can Be Averted if Quality Assurance Is Asserted
Today, we are going to contend that it’s important to include identifying the risks associated with electrical hazards and their removal from the workplace as part of a quality assurance program, be it a formal quality program or simply the use of straightforward quality concepts in everyday workplace activities.
We’ll further argue that an electrical-related accident quality program should include best practices, continuous improvement and the employment of electrical checklists, all critical to reducing the statistics below pertaining to such accidents in the workplace.
Did you know that every year in the United States, workplace electrical incidents result in more than 300 deaths and 3,500 injuries? While electrical hazards are not the principal cause of on-the-job injuries and fatalities, they are disproportionately fatal. For every 13 electrical injuries, a worker dies.
Here are a few more gloomy numbers about electrical-related incidents in the workplace:
- In 2016, there was one electrical fatality for every 34 fatalities from all causes in the workplace.
- Younger workers suffer fatal electrical injury up to 2.3 times the frequency of more experienced workers.
- Electrocutions made up the vast majority of electrical fatalities in 2016 while electrical burns of all degrees were responsible for four fatalities.
- Exposure to electric current increased one place to sixth on the list of occupational exposures leading to fatal on-the-job injury in 2016, trading places with aircraft fatalities.
- 2,000 workers are treated in specialized burn trauma centers each year as a result of arc flash injuries.
Note: Arc flash is the light and heat produced by an electric arc with sufficient energy to cause substantial damage, harm, fire or injury.
Even knowing these statistics, we manage to overlook the hazards electricity poses in the workplace. Keep in mind these threats affect not only the electrician but workers, office employees, department managers and even top management, irrespective of whether they work with electricity directly or indirectly.
Rules & Regulations
So, what does the government have to say about electrical safety?
The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 asserts that employers are responsible for safeguarding the health and safety of their employees and the public if they are at risk from work activities. The obligations concerning the dangers specifically related to electricity in the workplace are further described under the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989.
In addition, the National Fire Protection Association has issued NFPA 70E “musts” to protect workplace 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, and arc flash.
Although these rules and regulations have been in force for some time now, every year thousands of accidents in the workplace involving electricity are reported. Most of these electrical-related fatalities and injuries could have been prevented.
What really causes electrical accidents?
According to OSHA, at first inspection, electrical accidents usually look like they were triggered by circumstances that are peculiar to the specific incident being investigated.
However, further inquiry almost always shows the principal cause of electrical accidents to be a combination of three likely factors: work involving unsafe equipment and installations; workplaces made unsafe by the environment; and unsafe work practices. The first two factors are sometimes considered together and simply referred to as unsafe conditions.
Hence, electrical accidents can be generally considered as being caused by unsafe conditions and unsafe work performance or, in what is usually the case, combinations of the two.
“Tomorrow: your reward for working safely today.” Attributed to Robert Pelton, documentary filmmaker
Electrical safety is no joke, correct the hazard or go up in smoke
To reduce the risk of an electrical injury, it’s important to understand the many electrical hazards that can exist in the workplace. These are among the most common:
- A faulty cord should not be ignored. Connections with aluminum wire can become loose and oxidize if not made properly, creating heat or arcing. You need to recognize that inadequate wiring is a hazard. Electrical hazards exist when wires or other electrical parts are exposed.
- Don’t let electricity shock turn you off. Some electrical equipment is “live,” implying you can come into direct contact with the current. These areas should be guarded against accidental contact, with entrances marked with conspicuous warning signs.
- It’s the ground’s fault. According to the National Electrical Code, a “ground fault” is a conducting connection (whether intentional or accidental) between an electric conductor and any conducting material that is grounded or that may become grounded. Electricity always wants to find a path to the ground. In a ground fault, electricity has found a path to ground, but it is a path the electricity was never intended to be on, such as through a person’s body.
- Be careful with power, it may be your last hour. A high proportion of accidents occur when vehicles or machinery come into contact with overhead lines. If a vehicle or machine becomes “live” then anyone touching it is in mortal danger.
- An overloaded receptacle is not acceptable. Putting too much pressure on a water hose can make it burst. The principle is similar for electric wires: if too great a current flow is required by several items of equipment connected to the same line, this produces an overload. If the wire’s insulation melts, arcing could occur and instigate a fire in the area where the overload exists, even inside a wall.
- It’s only temporary wiring, so what’s the problem? Temporary wiring is more susceptible to being damaged than fixed wiring due to aging, uneven edges near doors and windows, staples or fastenings used to hold it in place or abrasion from adjacent materials and activities in the nearby area.
What’s the Danger?
There are four main electricity-related injuries:
- Electrocution, death caused by electric current passing through the body;
- Shock, which is caused when contact is made with a live wire or equipment that is not grounded, allowing the current to flow through the body;
- Electrical burns, one of the most serious, painful and damaging of all burns. They typically occur on hands and feet where the current enters and exits the body; and
- Secondary injuries, which typically result from the effects of shock, such as being thrown off a ladder, causing a broken leg.
Note: Don’t be fooled into thinking that electrical accidents occur only on the shop floor. Most everything in an office setting today operates on electricity. Electrical equipment used in an office is potentially hazardous and can cause serious shock and burn injuries if improperly used or maintained.
If you do not want your employees to become another statistic, there are steps you can take. Here are 14 tips to prevent electrical accidents in the workplace:
- Use only equipment that is properly grounded or double-insulated.
- Do not overload outlets.
- Do not plug multi-outlet bars to other multi-outlet bars.
- Only use equipment that has been approved by a national testing laboratory.
- Minimize the use of extension cords. Do not plug two extension cords together.
- Do not cover power cords or extension cords with rugs or mats, as this can cause issues with the wires or create potential tripping hazards.
- Do not run electrical cords through pedestrian aisles.
- Unplug or disconnect machines before servicing or repairing and check to make sure the machine is actually disconnected and turned off prior to any service.
- Do not ignore warning signs. If an item feels hot, makes an unusual noise (buss or hum), smokes or sparks, take it out of service immediately and tag it “Do not use.”
- Inspect cords and equipment regularly and report any defects immediately.
- Cover or guard any exposed electrical components or wires, and make sure employees are aware of any hazards.
- Unplug cords from the outlet by gripping the plug. Do not just pull the cord from a distance.
- Do not use electrical equipment or appliances near water or wet surfaces
- Never use electrical equipment when your hands or the equipment is wet.
Employing best practices
A “best practice” is simply a practice that has been implemented and proven to work so that it would be beneficial for others to use it. For example, a best practice would be to make sure that all cords, plugs and sockets are in good condition or something a bit more memorable, Check the cord, so you don’t get floored.
Best practices in a company’s quality assurance program contribute to a host of benefits including the reduction of electrical hazards that could lead to injuries and fatalities.
There is always room for improvement
A continuous improvement strategy is any policy or process within a workplace that helps keep the focus on improving the way things are done on a regular basis. This could be through regular incremental improvements or by focusing on achieving larger process improvements.
Continuous improvement is based on the idea that even though you may be doing fine, you never rest on your laurels.
This approach to continuous improvement can and should be extended to electrical safety in the workplace.
“Practice the philosophy of continuous improvement. Get a little bit better every single day.” – Brain Tracy, motivational speaker
Creating a workplace electrical safety checklist
Creating a quality control inspection checklist should be among the first steps you take to develop an effective quality control program. A detailed checklist can save you a lot of trouble in the long run. It can defend against sub-standard or non-conforming electrical guidelines.
A checklist helps to clarify inspection responsibilities, controls inspection activities and provides a report of inspection activities
Below is a sample workplace electrical safety checklist that can be used during safety inspections for the identification of potential workplace electrical hazards.
This checklist is by no means all-inclusive but merely an example of what you might include.
You’ll want to refer to the OSHA standards for complete specific criteria that may apply to your workplace.
|Are circuit breakers regularly tripping?|
|Are extension cords used for a permanent operation?|
|Are all plugs and cords in good condition?|
|Are all extension cords plugged into a grounded outlet when in use?|
|No electrical switches, switch plates or receptacles, cracked, broken or have exposed contacts?|
|Do all electrical panels have a surrounding space of 3 feet clear?|
|Are all electrical circuit breakers identified?|
|Are cords passing through walls, ceiling, doors or windows?|
|Are boxes and cabinets labeled?|
|Are high voltage signs posted?|
|Is ventilation adequate for the heat load?|
|Is there clear access to electrical panels and no combustible material stored here?|
|Is there restricted access to the room?|
|Are power cords grounded?|
|Are there any broken/cracked handles?|
|Are there signs of equipment deterioration?|
|Do tool switches work properly?|
|Are power cords taped?|
|OFFICE, LABS, BREAKROOMS||Yes||No||N/A|
|Are there cords strung along walkways?|
|Are coffee pots/warmers turned off at day’s end?|
|Do on/off switches function properly on all equipment?|
|Are power outlets and electrical devices covered?|