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NFPA to Consider Inspection Tasks in Protection

January 14, 2011 Leave a comment

From a release by NFPA.org

NFPA 70E Revision to add Electrical Inspection to tasks covered for electrical safety in the workplace.

Section 90.1 of NFPA 70E®, Electrical Safety in the Workplace®, says that the primary purpose of the standard is “to provide a practical safe working area for employees relative to the hazards arising from the use of electricity.” The tasks covered by the standard include the installation, operation, maintenance, and demolition of electric conductors, electric equipment, signaling and communications conductors and equipment, and raceways

Absent from these tasks, ironically, is inspection, meaning that the scope of the standard does not cover electrical inspectors, whose job is to ensure public safety.

It is not unusual for electrical inspectors to be in the vicinity of exposed, energized electrical conductors or circuit parts while performing their duties. In fact, inspectors could be inside the limited approach boundary and, in some cases, may cross into the restricted approach boundary. Depending on the equipment being inspected, it is likely an inspector could also be within the arc flash boundary without the appropriate level of personal protective equipment.

Exposure is eliminated provided the inspection is performed on equipment that has been placed in an electrically safe work condition. But is that always feasible? The need for some inspections to be conducted on energized electrical equipment must be reconciled with the fundamental rule of NFPA 70E, which calls for tasks to be performed on de-energized equipment. Only where it can be demonstrated that turning the equipment off introduces additional hazards or is somehow infeasible does the standard permit the tasks to be performed on energized equipment.

The Technical Committee on Electrical Safety in the Workplace accepted Proposal 70E-9 to the 2012 edition of NFPA 70E to include inspection among the tasks the standard covers. Since the committee received no public comments on this action, the 2012 edition is expected to cover inspection of electrical installations.

It is safe to say that assimilation of NFPA 70E into the work practices of electrical inspectors will not occur overnight. However, the fact that the American National Standard on safe work practices will now cover electrical inspections cannot be ignored. Those who employ electrical inspectors will have to accept the added responsibility of making sure their employees follow safe work practices. The government, be it federal, state, or municipal, employs many electrical inspectors, and the question of law on whether federal- and state-administered occupational safety and health rules apply will have to be sorted out. NFPA 70E is blind to whom inspection employees work for, and the proposed revision brings any inspection employee exposed to an electrical hazard under the NFPA 70E umbrella.

There may be some initial pushback on implementing safe work practices in the inspection workplace, but that would be a natural reaction to something new and unfamiliar. Before this change was proposed to the NFPA 70E technical committee, some inspection agencies in the public and private sectors actively embraced the value of electrical safety for their employees by implementing electrical safety training programs. The State of Idaho, under the leadership of Program Director Al Caine, is a leader in this area, providing training and personal protective equipment to state-employed electrical inspectors.

Electrical inspectors provide a valuable service to the public, and while they aren’t typically subject to the same level of hazard exposure as those performing electrical installation and maintenance, they are not immune to electrical hazards. Electrical inspectors need to be pro-tected like any other employee exposed to a potential electrical shock, arc-flash, or arc-blast hazard, and the 2012 edition of NFPA 70E will help make this happen.

Visit NFPA for more information on electrical safety standards in the workplace

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Arc Flash Injures Electrical Worker in St. Kitts

January 13, 2011 Leave a comment

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – THE man who was injured yesterday evening (Jan. 11) while working on the building that houses the Polo Company at the junction of Fort and Central Streets, was this morning discharged from the JNF Hospital.

Speaking with SKNVibes, Wenworth Richardson of Taylors Range said while on his way to make a purchase at City Drug Store, the Manager of Polo Company asked for his assistance in the rectification of a problem. 

“I was walking along Fort Street when the Manager of the Polo Company stopped me and asked if I work at the Electricity Department. I said yes and then he asked if I can help in stopping the cable wire on his building from sparking. I told him that I can but would have to return to my car to get my tools and will do so after I would have completed making a purchase at City Drug Store. I then returned and took my equipment from the back of my car and proceeded up the ladder. I was just examining the cable wire when I heard a loud blast. I had my glasses at the time on my head and the sound caused it to fall over my eyes. I immediately bent my head after the blast, as my experience taught me that my first priority was to protect my eyes,” Richardson said.
The Electricity Department Supervisor and second in charge of the Transmission and Distribution Section, added that he felt a burning sensation in his eyes and on his face and decided to get off the ladder.

He said that on reaching the sidewalk he could not see properly and someone helped him into his car and took him to the hospital.

Asked why he had decided to assist the manager when he knew the problem was not a fault of the Electricity Department, Richardson said, “I could not just continue on my way when someone reported a matter and I could have dealt with it. So I stopped to help and while I got a few burns I believed that I did the right thing.”

Superintendent of Transmission and Distribution, Nubian Greaux said that the injured Richardson has been employed at the Electricity Department for some 18 years. He pointed out that because of Richardson’s experience and versatility, he has been moved around to various sections in the department.

Greaux said Richardson had suffered an “arc flash, which he explained is produced by short circuit current that is generally used in welding.  According to the National Electrical Code Internet Connection, “Arc Flash is the result of a rapid release of energy due to an arcing fault between a phase bus bar and another phase bus bar, neutral or a ground.”

The Superintendent stated that a lot of misinformation was being circulated that Richardson was at fault. He however declared that an investigation revealed Richardson had followed the correct procedures.

“He did nothing wrong and he was well protected. He had on all the required gear including for his eyes and hands. The arc flash is a fire that burns easily, and it is important to note that Mr. Richardson did not suffer any shocks but was burnt by the fire from the arc flash.”

He also stated that arc flashes are generally not fatal but they have the capacity to cause one to die.

“We have never had any fatality from the arc flash here in St. Kitts and Nevis but I know that in other countries there have been fatalities,” he said.

Greaux claimed that he was not surprised by the incident because arc flashes are frequent and they are the primary cause of electrical fires.

“Arc flashes are what result in many electrical fires. However, because of the location and the fact that there was significant paint and concrete, it resulted in a fire not being ignited. If it was left for an extended period with old papers and wood in closed places, it could lead to an electrical fire,” he said.

Greaux said when he visited Richardson at the hospital sometime after 8.30 last night he was well but in some amount of discomfiture. “His face at around 8.30 p.m. was still very hot. The only injury he sustained were some burns on his left arm and this was because he was holding the pliers with that hand when he had the arc flash. But he is okay and should be released sometime today from the hospital,” he said.

He added that the misinformation circulated by members of the public created undue alarm, noting that “there were so many different accounts of what really happened”.

Greaux said Richardson should not be blamed for the mishap because “the situation resulted because the Cable installation wires were not good enough and this created the problem”.

Bloggers Note:  Electrical Arc Flash accidents happen every day in the US and unlike the statements made in the article, they are something to be very concerned about.  Proper protective equipment on the electricians face would have limited the amount of burns he endured. 

Martin Technical Electrical Safety Service

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