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Oct 10, 2018

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Electrical Safety

OSHA's Safety-Related Work Practices standards for general industry are performance-oriented requirements that complement the existing electrical installation standards.

These work-practice standard include requirements for work performed on or near exposed energized and de-energized parts of electric equipment; use of electrical protective equipment; and the safe use of electric equipment.

These rules are intended to protect employees from the electrical hazards that they may be exposed to even though the equipment may comply with the installation requirements in, 1910 Subpart S (electrical). When employees are working with electric equipment, they must use safe work practices. Such safety-related work practices include keeping a prescribed distance from exposed energized lines, avoiding the use of electric equipment when the employee or the equipment is wet, and locking-out and tagging equipment which is de-energized for maintenance.

The training requirements apply to employees who face a risk of electric shock that is not reduced to a safe level by the electrical installation requirements of §1910.303 - §1910.308. Employees in the following occupations would typically face these risks and are required to be trained:

  • Blue-collar supervisors
  • Electrical and electronics engineers
  • Electrical and electronic equipment engineers
  • Electricians
  • Industrial machine operators
  • Material handling equipment operators
  • Mechanics and repairers
  • Painters
  • Riggers and roustabouts
  • Stationary engineers
  • Welders

Except for electricians and welders, workers in these groups do not need to be trained if their work or the work of those they supervise does not bring them close enough to exposed parts of electric circuits operating at 50 volts or more to ground for a hazard to exist.

Other employees who also may reasonably be expected to face the comparable risk of injury due to electric shock or other electrical hazards must also be trained.

These standards cover electrical safety-related work practices for both qualified persons (those who have training in avoiding the electrical hazards of working on or near exposed energized parts) and unqualified persons (those with little or no such training) working on, near, or with the following installation:

  • Premises Wiring. Installations of electric conductors and equipment within or on buildings or other structures, and on other premises such as yards, carnival, parking, and other lots, and industrial substations;
  • Wiring for Connections to Supply. Installations of conductors that connect to the supply of electricity; and
  • Other Wiring. Installations of other outside conductors on the premises.
  • Optical Fiber Cable. Installations of optical fiber cable where such installations are made along with electric conductors.

Other Covered Work By Unqualified Persons

The provisions of these standards also cover work performed by unqualified persons on, near, or with the following installations:

  • Generation, transmission, and distribution installations. Installations for the generation, control, transformation, transmission, and distribution of electric energy (including communication and metering) located in buildings used for such purposes or located outdoors.
  • Communication installations. Installations of communications equipment to the extent that the work is covered under OSHA standard §1910.268
  • Installations in vehicles. Installations in ships, watercraft, railway rolling stock, aircraft, or automotive vehicles other than mobile homes and recreational vehicles.
  • Railway installations. Installations of railways for generation, transformation, transmission, or distribution of power used exclusively for the operation of rolling stock or installations of the railway solely used for signaling and communication purposes.

IMPORTANT: Excluded Work by Qualified Persons

If a qualified person is performing work near one of the four types of installations listed above, and the work is not being done on or directly associated with the installation, then that work is covered under the Safety-Related Work Practices. 

Definitions you should know

Barrier: A physical obstruction that is intended to prevent contact with equipment or live parts or to prevent unauthorized access to a work area.

Deenergized: Free from any electrical connection to a source of potential difference and free from electrical charge; not having a potential different from that of the earth.

Disconnecting means: A device, or group of devices, or other means by which the conductors of a circuit can be disconnected from their source of supply.

Energized: Electrically connected to a source of potential difference.

Exposed: (As applied to live parts.) Capable of being inadvertently touched or approached nearer than a safe distance by a person. It is applied to parts not suitably guarded, isolated, or insulated.

Live parts: Energized conductive components.

Qualified person: One who has received training in and has demonstrated skills and knowledge in the construction and operation of electric equipment and installations and the hazards involved.

  • Note 1 to the definition of “qualified person”: Whether an employee is considered to be a “qualified person” will depend upon various circumstances in the workplace. For example, it is possible and, in fact, likely for an individual to be considered “qualified” concerning specific equipment in the workplace, but “unqualified” as to other equipment. (See 1910.332(b)(3) for training requirements that specifically apply to qualified persons.)
  • Note 2 “qualified person”: An employee who is undergoing on-the-job training and who, in the course of such training, has demonstrated an ability to perform duties safely, and who is under the direct supervision of a qualified person, is considered to be a qualified person for the performance of those duties.

 In general, the standard requires covered employers to:

  • Provide appropriate training to both qualified and unqualified employees.
  • Provide effective safety-related work practices to prevent electric shock.
  • Deenergize live (energized) parts (operating at 50 volts or more) before employees work on them.
  • Provide suitable safety-related work practices for employees working on energized parts.
  • Treat de-energized parts that have not been locked out or tagged out as energized parts.
  • Place a lock or a tag (or both, if at all possible) on parts of fixed electric equipment circuits which have been de-energized.
  • Maintain a written copy of the lockout/tagout procedures.
  • Determine safe procedures for de-energizing circuits and equipment.
  • Disconnect circuits and equipment from all electric energy sources.
  • Release stored electrical energy which may endanger personnel.
  • Block or relieve stored non-electrical energy in devices that could reenergize electric circuit parts.
  • Place a lock and tag on each disconnecting means used to de-energize circuits and equipment.
  • Attach a lock to prevent persons from operating the disconnecting means.
  • If a lock cannot be applied, a tag may be used without a lock.
  • Make sure a tag used without a lock is supplemented by at least one additional security measure that provides a level of protection equal to that of the use of a lock.
  • A lock may be used without a tag if only:
    • One piece of equipment is de-energized, and
    • The lockout period does not extend beyond the work shift, and
    • Employees exposed to the hazards of reenergizing the equipment understand this procedure.
  • Verify the de-energized condition of the equipment.
  • Have the lock and tag be removed by the employee who applied it, or if that employee is not at the worksite, by another person designated to do so.
  • Only allow qualified persons to work on electric circuit parts or equipment that has not been de-energized.
  • Deenergize and ground overhead lines or provide other protective measures before work is started.
  • Maintain the distances in 1910.333(c)(3)(i) when an unqualified person is working in a position near overhead lines.
  • Maintain the distances in 1910.333(c)(3)(ii) when a qualified person is working in a position near overhead lines.
  • Maintain the distances in 1910.333(c)(3)(iii) when operating any vehicle or mechanical equipment capable of having parts of its structure near energized overhead lines.
  • Provide necessary illumination for employees in confined spaces.
  • Provide necessary shields, barriers, or insulating materials so employees can avoid contact with exposed energized parts in confined or enclosed spaces.
  • Require portable ladders that could come into contact with exposed energized parts to have non-conductive side rails.
  • Prohibit the wearing of conductive jewelry and other items if the person might contact exposed energized parts.
  • Prohibit the performing of housekeeping duties around energized parts.
  • Allow only qualified persons to defeat an interlock temporarily.
  • Visually inspect portable cord- and plug-connected equipment and flexible cord sets (extension cords) before each use.
  • Take the defective portable cord and plug connected equipment and extension cords out of use.
  • Make sure flexible cords used with grounding-type equipment must have an equipment grounding conductor.
  • Prohibit employees from manually reenergizing a circuit de-energized by a circuit protective device until it has been determined the equipment and circuit can be safely energized.
  • Visually inspect test instruments and equipment before it is used; do not use defective equipment.
  • Use only test instruments and equipment that is rated for the circuits, equipment, and environment.
  • Provide employees the necessary PPE (and require its use) in areas where there are potential electrical hazards, including arc flash and blast.
  • Maintain PPE in a safe, reliable condition and inspect or test it periodically.
  • Require guarding be put in place when normally enclosed live parts are exposed for maintenance or repair.
  • Use safety signs, safety symbols, or accident tags as needed to warn employees about electrical hazards.
  • Use barricades in conjunction with safety signs when necessary.
  • Station attendants to warn of danger if signs and barricades are not enough.

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