Beginning in August, OSHA penalties for violating workers’ health and safety will be increased for the first time in over 25 years.

OSHA’s maximum penalties, which were last adjusted in 1990, will increase by 78%. Going forward, the agency will continue to adjust its penalties for inflation each year based on the Consumer Price Index.

OSHA was created in 1970 to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. OSHA is committed to protecting working from toxic chemicals and deadly safety hazards at work, ensuring that vulnerable workers in high-risk jobs have access to critical information and education about job hazards, and proving employers with vigorous compliance assistance to promote best practices that can save lives.

How does this relate to electrical safety?

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), working on or around electricity leads to some 4,700 non-fatal injuries each year in the United States alone

Electrical accidents or unintended contact with energized systems is also blamed for an average of one death per day, every day, in the workplace

Electrical workplace hazards occupy 3 of the top 10 spots in OSHA’s list of top workplace violations

How can you ensure your workers’ health and safety & avoid OSHA penalties?

Analyze and identify ALL workplace electrical hazards

Document EVERYTHING – OSHA inspectors can and will ask for detailed documentation about electrical systems during inspection

Before doing any work on any electrical systems, make sure you have a detailed job description of the planned work – Inspectors will ask for written approval records. If it is energized you will need to fill out an Energized Electrical Work Permit in accordance with NFPA 70E.

Always document lockout/tag out plans and procedures.

All employees who might work on or near electrical systems have to be properly trained and training needs to be documented; Who took the classes, where were they offered, and what was covered?

Pay special attention to who is qualified to work on electrical systems as well to how OSHA (as well as NFPA, the National Fire Prevention Association) defines “qualified persons” for electrical systems work.

Both OSHA and NFPA standards commit several paragraphs to the definition of a “qualified person” for electrical work, noting that it is possible for someone to be considered qualified for work on certain systems and equipment, but that this qualification hardly means the same person is qualified for all systems or work, even within the same building or system. The installation of new equipment, OSHA adds, may require additional training in order to expand or even retain a previously qualified worker’s electrical qualifications.

Always use proper PPE (Proper Protective Equipment) and insulated tools.

NEVER understate the dangers behind arc flash.

OSHA and NFPA emphasis the importance of arc flash and arc blast safety in NFPA 70E. The NFPA 70E not only lists steps to take to address and assess arc flash hazards, but also provides information on how to do an arc flash study, calculate incident energy in order to determine flash boundaries, and determine what level of PPE must be worn around hazardous system components. NFPA also offers a list of electrical safety consultants who can perform complete arc flash analyses in the workplace.

The keys to avoiding arc flash is to identify the hazard-bearing components, analyze the hazard, and then observe and respect NFPA recommendations regarding flash boundaries and personal protective gear.

The simplest and most effective ways to reduce or eliminate electrical hazards in the workplace is to de-energize systems before working on them

An overview of the criteria for a severe violator enforcement case, based on OSHA literature, is outlined below:

Any inspection that meets one or more of criteria (A) through (D) at the time the citations are issued will be considered a severe violator enforcement case.

  • Fatality/Catastrophe Criterion. A fatality/catastrophe inspection in which OSHA finds one or more willful or repeated violations or failure-to-abate notices based on a serious violation related to a death of an employee or three or more hospitalizations.
  • Non-Fatality/Catastrophe Criterion Related to High-Emphasis Hazards. An inspection in which OSHA finds two or more willful or repeated violations or failure-to-abate notices (or any combination of these violations/notices), based on high gravity serious violations related to a high-emphasis hazard.
  • Non-Fatality/Catastrophe Criterion for Hazards Due to the Potential Release of a Highly Hazardous Chemical (Process Safety Management). An inspection in which OSHA finds three or more willful or repeated violations or failure-to-abate notices (or any combination of these violations/notices), based on high gravity serious violations related to hazards due to the potential release of a highly hazardous chemical, as defined in the PSM standard.
  • Egregious Criterion. All egregious (e.g., per-instance citations) enforcement actions will be considered SVEP cases.

Need training?

Check out upcoming NFPA 70E 2015: Electrical Safe Work Practices and Safety-Related Maintenance courses near you!

NFPA 70E: Electrical Safe Work Practices Two Day Training Itinerary

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