Working Safely Around Energized Equipment
Safe and Compliant Work Areas
Minimum Approach Distances
29 CFR, 1910.269 Subpart R:, Special Industries: 1910.269, Section (l): Working on or Near Exposed Energized Parts
29 CFR 1910.269 Appendix B: Working on Exposed Energized Parts
29 CFR 1910.269 Appendix C: Protection From Hazardous Differences in Electric Potential
29 CFR 1910.269 Appendix E: Protection From Flames and Electric Arcs
29 CFR, Subpart I, Personal Protective Equipment: 1910.137, Electrical Protective Equipment
29 CFR, Subpart V, Electric Power Transmission and Distribution: 1926.960: Working on or Near Exposed Energized Parts
Work safely around energized equipment (including: prudent assumptions, voltage testing, guarding against contact, PPE, and crew sizing).
Maintain a safe and compliant workspace, with appropriate insulating devices.
Intelligently apply OSHA-mandated MADs (minimum approach distances) to minimize shock and contact risks.
Ensure OSHA-mandated inspections of work practices and sites, complying with mandated intervals and scope.
The Occupation Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) states that, “In 1999, for example, 278 workers died from electrocutions at work, accounting for almost 5 percent of all on-the-job fatalities that year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). What makes these statistics more tragic is that most of these fatalities could have been easily avoided.”
What’s the most important rule for working with energized equipment? Always treat equipment as energized and install proper covers, unless verified otherwise. Electrical workers just have to know for sure, so double-checking is recommended. Here are some other 'must know’ rules for working with energized equipment…
Don’t Let Good Electrons Go Bad
Again, treat equipment as energized unless you’ve verified no voltage and grounded it.
Install proper covers.
Follow OSHA precautions, by nominal voltage threshold.
Test to verify voltage or its absence.
Use rated Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Work with a buddy.
Ensure a safe, compliant work area.
Maintain minimum approach distances.
Follow OSHA inspection requirements.
To keep your workers safe around energized equipment, including non-insulated wires, apply OSHA’s guidelines for preparation, work practices, and setting up the work area.
Avoid Contact at 50+ Volts
Lineworkers have been electrocuted at household voltages of just 120 volts to ground. To provide a safety margin, OSHA states that only qualified employees may work around exposed equipment energized at 50 volts or more. And above this voltage threshold, electrical workers must take steps to prevent contact.
Verify or Assume the Worst
Workers must know the nominal system voltage and use approved test instruments to verify which parts are energized. If they can’t test, they must assume everything is energized and use live-work practices. This rule is worth repeating.
Positioning to Avoid Contact
Utility workers need to work from a position where a slip or shock won’t bring them into contact with exposed, energized parts. A best practice is to stay below live parts.
Next, encourage your workforce to use the following guidelines to work safely around exposed, energized equipment. They can also use these same guidelines when working around covered, but un-insulated wires.
Treat All Equipment as Energized
Workers are to treat even non-current-carrying metal parts as energized at the highest voltage to which they are exposed. Examples include transformer cases and circuit-breaker housings.
Clear Conductive Accessories
Before working within reach of energized parts, workers must remove any exposed conductive articles, such as keychains, watches, watchbands, or rings. Or, they can insulate these objects to make them nonconductive.
Attach Conductive Wire to De-Energized Part First
When workers connect de-energized equipment or lines to an energized circuit using a jumper, instruct them to first attach the wire to the de-energized part.
Remove Conductive Wire from Source End First
When disconnecting equipment or lines from an energized circuit using a jumper, workers should remove the source end first.
Keep Loose Conductors Clear
When making or breaking connections with energized circuits, workers must keep loose conductors away from exposed live parts.
The risks around exposed live equipment include not only electrical shock, but also arc flashes and flames. Here are some tips to share with workers for choosing clothing and personal protective equipment (PPE) to guard against the damaging effects of an arc flash incident:
Next to skin, wear clothing made from natural fibers like cotton or wool.
The outermost garment should be arc-rated for the work being performed.
Use gloves rated for the highest voltage of possible exposure.
Be equipped for Expulsion Fuses.
Wear Insulating Sleeves.
Finally, when working on or around equipment energized at more than 600 volts, OSHA requires a crew of at least two qualified employees. This way, if a worker suffers an electrical injury, someone trained in CPR and first aid will be on hand.
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