Electrical-Safety Sense: Understanding Your Options

EP Editorial Staff | July 16, 2012

Electrical safety boils down to a single objective: Reduce electrical risks. Consider, for example, the fact that a 120VAC outlet is riskier than 13.8KV power distribution equipment. The reason is because many more people are exposed to 120VAC. The Risk Control Hierarchy instructs us on the most effective ways to reduce the probability and severity of such risks.

  • Elimination—Remove all voltage exposure
  • Substitution—Replace high-risk tasks with lower-risk tasks
  • Engineering Controls—Find ways to control electrical energy
  • Awareness—Reveal all sources of electrical energy
  • Administrative Controls—Ensure safe work practice procedures (NFPA 70E, CSA Z462)
  • Personal Protection—Reduce risks of working on live voltage

Keeping people away from live voltage eliminates risk altogether and is the preferred option. Communication ports, mounted on the outside of control panels, allow workers thru-door access to necessary aspects of the panel without taking the sometimes-risky action of opening the panel door. Having the ability to customize communication ports is important because it means every panel can be dressed with this time-saving safety device and no one is left exposed.

Another way to keep people away from live voltages includes permanent electrical safety devices (PESDs). Keeping panel doors closed is vital to electrical safety. With PESDs, workers are able to perform lock-out/tag-out procedures from the safe side of electrical panels, and they do it in just seconds. This means not only are workers safer, but they are more productive with PESDs.   

Personal protective equipment (PPE) has its place and value, but, ironically, according to the Risk Control Hierarchy, it is the least effective at actually protecting workers. In fact, PPE’s sole purpose is keeping workers alive from the effects of an arc flash by minimizing, not eliminating, injuries. Furthermore, PPE does nothing to protect equipment or companies from the damaging aftermath of an arc flash. 

In the grand scheme of things, which option would you rather count on? MT

To learn more about specific recommendations and practices, email the author: philallen@grace-eng.com.




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