What Should Your Non-Qualified Workers Get from Your Electrical Safety Program?
By: Mike Enright
When many workers think of an electrical safety program, they think of the things that go into becoming a qualified worker. While absolutely vital that employers document the necessary skills, techniques, and training needed to work on or near energized parts—many fail when it comes to helping protect non-qualified workers.
As we lead up to our highly anticipated Guide to Implementing an Electrical Safety Program, we would like to discuss a missed opportunity for employers.
The Dangers of Forgetting about Unqualified or Untrained Workers
NFPA 70E defines an unqualified person as simply "a person who is not a qualified person." There are two kinds of unqualified persons:
- An unqualified electrician who does not know the equipment or has not received safety training on the potential hazards involved.
- A non-electrician, such as a general maintenance worker or painter, who is not expected to work on live electrical equipment.
Too often, an electrical safety program will take this literal definition of unqualified, and simply tell these workers to stay away. However, this is a missed training opportunity and actually could create a dangerous outcome.
Statistics show that sixty-four percent of all on the job electrical fatalities occur in occupations that traditionally receive little to no electrical training, such as landscapers, roofers, HVAC technicians, welders, plumbers and truck drivers.
Worse yet, if you look at the age, activity, and occupation, you’ll see a dangerous trend:
- Inexperienced workers are the most likely to suffer a fatal electrical injury, with workers 16-17 5.4 times more likely than average to die from fatal electrical injuries, dropping to 2.4 times for 18-19, and 1.8 times as likely for 20-24.
- 80% of fatal injuries from direct exposure to electricity occurred while workers were engaged in constructing, repairing, or cleaning activities.
- Workers who were fatally injured as a result of indirect exposure to electricity were most often engaged in construction, repairing, or cleaning activities (37%) or were using or operating tools or machinery (32%) at the time of injury.
- By occupation, workers in construction and extraction occupations (47%) and installation, maintenance, and repair occupations (22%) accounted for the largest number of deaths.
Whether these workers are just young and inexperienced, immigrants taking a job in an unfamiliar industry or who are unaccustomed to the work practices in the US, or even experienced workers looking at an unfamiliar piece of machinery, it’s important that you keep these workers well-informed of their roles and the steps they should take to avoid electrical hazards.
Communication and Understanding: A Necessary Component of an Electrical Safety Program
For a safety program to be effective, it has to be properly communicated to and understood by everyone. Paired with this, inexperienced and non-electrical workers aren’t going to understand or even care about the complexities presented in NFPA 70E or the NEC.
Don’t believe us? Talk with a construction worker or driver about the process of completing an incident energy analysis, the differences between a horizontal conductor in a metal box and one in open air, and how a change in enclosure size affects incident energy. Did they roll their eyes? There’s a reason for this—it’s not their job. That said… It’s still your job to protect them.
Knowing your audience is critical, getting to know how different workers learn is necessary to developing a training program that protects them. For instance, your younger workers may be afraid to ask questions, or you may assume that they will pick up on industry jargon. Knowing how to break down communications and ensure understanding will make your safety program not only easier to implement, but safer.
An Unqualified Worker Skill Program: Laying the Groundwork for Safety
In addition to developing a process for workers to achieve qualification in your electrical safety program, your unqualified workers should know more than just “don’t touch it.”
There are many skills an unqualified worker should develop an understanding of what they need to avoid, what hazards exist in a workplace, what precautions they should take when on a job site. Among these skills:
- Be familiar with any electrical hazards in the workplace.
- Understand procedures to follow and to protect themselves when they work around electricity.
- Understand which tasks that can only be performed by qualified workers (e.g. maintenance and repairs).
- Know when and how to report electrical problems.
- Know what to do in the event of emergency involving electricity.
- Know how to inspect electrical tools and equipment before use to make sure insulation and wiring are in good condition.
Stay Tuned: Upcoming Enespro PPE Whitepaper will Share Much More on Implementing and Enforcing a Safety Program
Developing an unqualified worker skill program is one tiny part of an electrical safety program. At Enespro PPE, we are excited to announce that we will be releasing a guide in the coming months on developing, implementing, and enforcing a holistic electrical safety program that protects all workers.
Want to be the first one to receive this? Sign up for our email list. You’ll also get 10% percent off your first purchase, insights on protecting workers, and much more. Ready to learn even more? Learn more about our products and contact us for a free quote.
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