Chapter Corner

Can We Overdo Safety?

Posted in: Safety Corner, November/December 2017

Too much of anything is usually not good for you, but can we say that when it comes to safety. I have seen individuals struggle with this and some never consider the question at all as they plowed full steam ahead. I believe it deserves a look; and in my opinion, we all have to understand the risks associated with too little a focus and the risks associated with too much of a focus on this thing we call safety.
 
KEEP IT SIMPLE

insights.jpgWe all accept some level of risk in our daily lives in everything we do; driving to work is a good example of an activity that for a lot of people places them in the most risk of injury for their entire day. Our efforts should be to reduce the potential that actions, activities, or lack thereof will lead to an undesirable outcome. Those that go “overboard” with regard to safety can create distractions from what really matters by focusing on details that don’t matter as much. When it comes to safety there is a lot that can be said about keeping things simple.
 
Covering every step and every aspect of a task focusing only on safety rules without regard to likelihood of a problem occurring can place more on the shoulder of the employee than necessary to get the job done safely. The human mind is very powerful, but cluttering up the mind can cause one to focus on the non-critical aspects and forget about the more important things that are likely to create an undesirable outcome.
 
PREVENTION
 
The best accident to deal with is the one that never happens; get your head wrapped around a goal of zero incidents. Make safety your number one priority; but, one could argue if you make it your sole focus with blinders on to everything else, it could cause an undesirable outcome. Once your head is in the game,you are ready to begin your day, not just the job at hand. Establishing some baseline rules for you, your facility, or your organization is a great start.
  • Work De-Energized: Treat every circuit as if it is energized and work de-energized – a best practice and a policy to live by.

  • Identify Hazards: Recognizing hazards is not as easy as it sounds. It takes continuous training and insight from others who may see hazards that are not apparent to the average observer. Seek input from others, including those with whom you work, such as trade organizations like the IEC, and manufacturer’s instructions. Help your employees to identify the hazards, as recognizing them is the first step to avoidance. 
  • Equipment Care: Don’t let a poorly maintained tool be the reason for your injury. We rely on our tools to make our lives easier. In many cases, they are an absolute necessity to get the job done. If not cared for, they may not only not get the job done but they may be the cause of injury. Inspect all tools before and after use. Insulated hand tools, matting, and other personal protection equipment that are supposed to prevent electrocution should the tool come in contact with energized equipment may require more than just a visual inspection. Consult NFPA 70E, "Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace" for guidance in this area (Reference Table 130.7(C)(14), "Standards on Protective Equipment"). Take care of your tools and they will take care of you. 
  • Safety Plan: The concept of a safety plan has graced the pages of Insights before and is an effort that your organization should consider and implement. Your safety plan is a great avenue to deliver your policies around safe work practices for your organization. 

  • Training: Safety is not something that should be left to on-the-job training. It's ultimately each of our own responsibility to ensure we seek the training we need. Your organization should have a good training program as part of its safety plan. Training does more than just keep your head in the game, it helps us recognize hazards and take the necessary steps to avoid the dangers.
  • Personal Health: In the electrical business, we put our bodies into stressful and physically challenging situations. Taking care of your health with annual physicals, exercise, and eating right can make a big difference on the job. It's up to you to ensure you are fit for what the day will throw at you.

MITIGATION

Cover all of your bases. We can plan, train, and work hard to avoid the incidents that add to statistics, but we can't forget to plan, train, and work hard to be prepared for when the event occurs.

  • PPE: Your PPE should be kept in good order. Manufacturer's instructions and other reference material should be utilized to ensure your equipment is tested and inspected appropriately. You are putting your life in the hands of your equipment when a problem occurs. It is important that you treat that equipment with the respect it deserves. This applies at work and at home. 

  • Leverage Technology: There are many tools at your disposal that can help mitigate the effects of electricity when things go wrong. Arc-reducing technologies, and other similar technologies may be at your disposal for the work you are about to perform.

  • Emergency Plans: Being prepared for when an emergency occurs makes a difference and saves lives. Getting an injured person prompt medical attention, off the job site, and into proper medical facilities is critical. Do you have a plan should an incident occur on your next project?

PARTING REMARKS

When it comes to safety topics, arguments can be made for detailed steps for every job and every project focused only on safety. Consider that too many details around safety without consideration of likelihood could be counterproductive to your safety goals. Success in safety can be found in good teamwork. Together, we can make a difference. 

As always, keep safety at the top of your list and ensure you and those around you live to see another day.

Thomas Domitrovich, P.E. is VP of Technical Sales for Eaton's Bussmann business within the Circuit Protection Division of Eaton Corporation. Thomas is based out of St. Louis, MO and has more than 25 years of experience as an Electrical Engineer. He is a LEED Accredited Professional and a licensed Professional Engineer in the state of Pennsylvania. Thomas is active in various trade organizations including the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC), International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI), Institute of Electrical and Electronic Enginners (IEEE), National Electrical Manufacturer's Association (NEMA) and the National Fire Protection Assocation (NFPA). Thomas is Principle member on Code Making Panel 2 for the National Electrical Code (NFPA 70) and an Alternate member on NFPA 73 for electrical inspections of existing dwelling units both representing NEMA.