Every 30 minutes, a worker will experience an electrically induced injury. The voltage and pressure levels within most electrical assets leave little chance for a worker to escape with just a minor burn or scrape. Because interacting with highly levels of energy increases the risk for fatal and serious injuries (FSIs), organizations must develop enterprise asset management (EAM) and FSI prevention strategies to reduce these incidents from occurring. To begin, follow the eight steps in this article to ensure electrical workers are protected from all energized assets.
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Follow These Eight Steps to Help Prevent Fatal & Serious Injuries
1. Locate the sources of energy.
Electrical hazards threaten the safety of people and property in the form of shocks, burns, injury, fire, and explosion. The first variable in hazard recognition is locating the sources of energy. By conducting an electrical safety audit, your organization can identify all the major sources of energy throughout the facility, particularly the hazards that exist in installation, maintenance, and uninstallation of equipment.
2. Calibrate the energy levels.
The second variable in hazard recognition is knowing the amount of energy within each source. Managing the flow or containment of energy in a facility requires calibrating the energy levels. Knowing if energy has been sufficiently reduced, whether electricity has been stepped down (as it is between lines on the street and current inside a house), or if pallet loads are no longer stacked as high, cuts the odds of a tragedy.
3. Assess the human proximities.
Understanding where people gather can tell us where serious accidents are most likely to occur, and to focus the most attention on those areas. FSIs can often happen where people are working with machine controls or are closest to moving or electrically charged components. The barriers between energy and employees are often relatively thin, which are more than sufficient when new or maintained, but dangerous if their continuous integrity is compromised.
4. Identify the modes of failure.
One of the most crucial aspects of systems thinking is the ability to imagine worst-case scenarios, which helps to identify and avert failure before it happens. Asset managers must be experts in anticipating these “rare but predictable” events that could potentially cause harm to workers and contribute to systems downtime.
5. Calculate the probabilities.
Managing a process well includes knowing how likely each of its components is to fail. For most machines or their parts, there are established “potential failure” curves that are invaluable at helping to focus attention in those areas where a problem is most likely to occur and most likely to result in severe injury. Additionally, estimating these odds is a highly productive exercise that brings up issues that otherwise would have gone unanticipated.
6. Focus on the middle of the hierarchy of controls.
When steps one to five have been followed, the traditional hierarchy of controls becomes a substantially enhanced strategic tool. This is especially true in the middle of the hierarchy since energy can rarely be eliminated and PPE is rarely enough to stop FSI-level forces. But methodically considering engineering and administrative controls leads to targeted, cost-effective means of isolating the hazards or keeping workers clear of them.
7. Optimize the inspection and maintenance regimen.
The best way to control the probabilities and avoid getting blindsided by a break in the system is improved inspection and maintenance. For example, when you combine current thermo-imaging technologies with an insistence on removing panel covers to get at the connections, problems and issues are discovered and can be corrected ahead of time. Frequent inspections allow an enterprise to pivot from reactive to predictive.
8. Involve the front line.
Electrical hazards recognition and injury prevention does not come naturally. Involving and training your frontline workers enables them to understand how their systems and equipment operate, the processes by which works gets done, and how to identify hazards and prevent injuries. Identifying system and process improvements also increases exponentially as FSI prevention migrates to occur earlier and more effectively within the hierarchy of controls.
Develop New Strategies for FSI Prevention Across Your Enterprise
Learning how to predict and prevent FSIs does not happen overnight. The prevention of FSIs depends heavily on design, reliability, maintenance, and safeguards that happen well upstream of frontline worker decisions. They require strategic planning, and fail-safe design and operation at the leadership level, which provides proper training for electrical workers managing energized assets.
When an organization fully understands EAM and FSI prevention, it can significantly increase safety and operational performance. Read our latest white paper to learn the core concepts behind FSI prevention and how to develop a strategy that can yield better safety outcomes across your organization.