Archive | Safety Systems / Training


7:20 pm
October 10, 2016
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Are Your Electricians Safety-Trained?

OSHA and NFPA provide the guidelines, but our survey suggests there is still some room for electrical-safety training improvement.

OSHA and NFPA provide the guidelines, but our survey suggests there is still some room for electrical-safety training improvement.

randmWhen electrical systems are in question, anyone would be hard pressed to support any compromise in safety should maintenance work be required. To develop a picture of electrical safety in the manufacturing arena, we surveyed the readers of Maintenance Technology to determine their knowledge of electrical-system events/activities in their facilities. More than 230 professionals took time to respond. The survey results are presented below.

While the responses were overwhelmingly positive in terms of system knowledge and safety, there were enough of the “other” responses to suggest some element of training, either initial or ongoing, is in order. According to the electrical-training experts at AVO Institute, Dallas (, compliance with OSHA and NFPA 70E regulations is not optional. In addition, NFPA 70E stipulates that retraining, not refresher courses, must occur every three years.

Ask your team members to take the same survey. Your results will tell you whether training needs are immediate or if you’ve been doing your job well and additional training can be scheduled down the road. MT
—Gary L. Parr, editorial director








1:38 pm
September 19, 2016
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Prayer and Safety


By Gary L. Parr, Editorial Director

Most of my adult life I’ve been involved in one church committee/organization or another. For a good number of years I was chairman of the congregation. Anyone who has done this type of work knows that, more than anything, it involves an endless parade of meetings. Actually, more meetings than work. If you’ve been similarly involved, you also know that every meeting begins and ends with a prayer.

I’ve conducted so many meetings through the years that the practice of beginning and ending with a prayer has become so ingrained that I get a strange feeling when any non-church meeting doesn’t begin with a bowing of the heads. I get over it, but there is always that moment at the beginning of a business meeting in which I feel compelled to lead a prayer. Of course, any clerical person would applaud this and say that any gathering should begin and end with prayer. But it doesn’t work that way in the business world, so I let the moment pass.

I thought this engrained habit was just a weird church/Jesus thing until I attended my first Maintenance Excellence Roundtable conference a couple of months ago. No, they didn’t start each day with a prayer. But they did start with the thing that’s ingrained in their psyches—a safety moment.

It really caught me off guard, but I immediately saw the value for us in a conference room as we took a moment to cover obvious things such as exits, fire extinguishers, and potentially dangerous electrical cord placement. As a result, whenever I sit down for a meeting/event in an unfamiliar room, I find myself conducting my own safety moment by looking for exits, extinguishers, and possible exit choke points. That’s not something I ever did before encountering the MER people.

Post this photo on your bulletin board to remind workers why safety glasses are a must. You also might share it with visitors when they take a lackadaisical approach to wearing personal-protection equipment.

Post this photo on your bulletin board to remind workers why safety glasses are a must. You also might share it with visitors when they take a lackadaisical approach to wearing personal-protection equipment.

The brief discussions also made me appreciate the value of making safety the first thing that’s talked about in any plant gathering. Starting meetings with a safety discussion constantly drives home the message that safety is the top priority, no matter what people have gathered to discuss.

It’s so ingrained in the members of the MER organization that each MER Board of Directors telephone conference call starts with a safety item. Yes, it’s part of a telephone meeting in which everyone is in a different location. It’s usually a telling of a positive or negative safety event that someone has experienced. It only takes a couple of minutes, but it’s always there and always first.

The most recent story was about a person who was using a cutting tool and a piece of the blade broke off and inserted in his safety glasses. If the photo doesn’t inject in you a full appreciation for safety glasses, nothing will. In the safety discussion it also raised the question about whether, in these situations, a full face guard isn’t a better choice. Regardless, safety glasses will be on my face whenever I use power tools at home.

While I’ve always appreciated the importance of safety in industrial settings, the MER members have taught me that it’s much more than some set of rules everyone follows. To be effective, it has to become second nature to everyone, but first on that list of second-nature things.

To do our part, we provide you with four safety-related articles this month, beginning on p. 20. While reading those articles won’t change your safety culture, they’ll likely serve as either a starting point or a refresher. The real work is on your end.

I would suggest that, if safety isn’t ingrained in everything everyone does at your company, it’s not too tough to start by requiring that a safety moment be first on every meeting agenda. The only exception to that policy would be at church where we’re going to continue to start with a prayer. MT


2:36 pm
May 16, 2016
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RasGas Pumps Up Production

Setting the pace for the global LNG industry involves many things, including working with experts who deliver solutions that ensure process safety, reliability, and efficiency.

Drilling for natural gas is only the start in getting it to market. It must be super-chilled into liquefied form (LNG) for export. For Qatar’s RasGas Co. Ltd., that chilling takes place onshore, in a processing plant called a “train,” far away from offshore wellheads. One of the world’s leading integrated LNG enterprises, RasGas has seven of these trains, including two of the largest on the planet.

Setting the pace for the global LNG industry involves many things, including working with experts who deliver solutions that ensure process safety, reliability, and efficiency.

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8:07 pm
August 6, 2015
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Step Up to Greater Electrical Awareness

Arc-flash power is demonstrated in a controlled setting. The event vaporizes metal, enormously expanding its volume and instantly producing temperatures of 35,000 F or higher. Photo courtesy AVO Training Institute.

Arc-flash power is demonstrated in a controlled setting. The event vaporizes metal, enormously expanding its volume and instantly producing temperatures of 35,000 F or higher. Photo courtesy AVO Training Institute.

The 2015 changes to the NFPA 70E electrical-safety standard include new perspectives on maintenance, use of PPE, and terminology—all of which could have an impact on your operation.

By Rick Carter, Executive Editor 

Electrical-safety standards turn up regularly on OSHA’s Top 10 List of “Most Frequently Cited” violations each year. On the current list, dated October 2014, electrical standards hold three of the 10 positions:

  • #6 — Lockout/Tagout (1910.147)
  • #8 — Electrical, Wiring Methods (1910.305)
  • #10 — Electrical, General Requirements (1910.303)

Go back one or several years and you’ll see much the same lineup; only the order changes slightly (though the Fall Protection standard, 1926.501, often leads). To many, this bewildering repetition of rule breaking is akin to failing an open-book test when all questions and answers are fully provided beforehand. How does it happen?

OSHA outlines its violations online at, but these terse reports do not address causes. Rather, they highlight the hazard violation: unexpected energization, working near live equipment without training, exposure to electrical shock hazards, and unguarded parts of live electrical equipment. These alone encompass a “who’s who” of what can go wrong in a plant when the focus on safety wavers. They also paint a disturbing picture of the poor safety condition in which plants can sometimes find themselves.

Standard rules, inconsistent adherence

“It really depends on the facility,” said Tim Rohrer, president of Exiscan LLC, a New York-based manufacturer of inspection windows for electrical equipment. “Some are right on the edge of electrically safe work practices and others are woefully behind.”

Rohrer spoke with Maintenance Technology following his presentation on the 2015 changes to the NFPA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace at a recent industry conference. The changes to this go-to standard (outlined in detail last month in Maintenance Technology), represent the latest industry effort to clarify electrical-safety procedures and help make industrial operations safer.

Rohrer suggested that the updating process, in which he participates, can seem like an uphill battle in some cases. “Sadly, some of those companies that are way behind might think they’re complying with 70E,” he said, “but they don’t even own a copy of the standard. In many cases they are just going off of bits and pieces they’ve picked up along the way.” This can lead to multiple electrical-safety shortcomings in key areas, such as failure to use personal protective equipment (PPE), allowing work to be done on energized equipment, and others, as OSHA’s list confirms.

Updated every three years through a four-step process that includes significant public input and review, NFPA 70E now features a greater emphasis on the role maintenance plays in the safe operating condition of electrical equipment. “Maintenance is now front and center,” said Rohrer. “It always has been, but it is more so in the latest revision; it’s referred to more often and more pointedly. For example, when a worker goes up to the equipment, they really have to bear in mind the condition and maintenance of the equipment they’ll be working on. This is pretty huge.”

NFPA 70E 2015, Article 200 states that the equipment owner is responsible for the maintenance of its electrical equipment and documentation of same. This clarification—a responsibility that might have been assumed before—is now spelled out. It reflects one goal of the changes and revisions, which is to leave less chance for either willful or accidental misinterpretation. According to Article 210.5, maintenance is now a focus because “improper maintenance of protective devices can result in increased clearing times, which thereby results in higher incident energy.”

Because of the added emphasis on the condition and maintenance of equipment, it’s Rohrer’s opinion that “if there is an accident and OSHA comes on site, and they decide a person was injured because the equipment was improperly maintained—which is stated pretty clearly in several different ways—this becomes something OSHA can start to look at.” So, whether other causes are ultimately determined to have caused an electrical accident or not, your maintenance procedures may be reviewed anyway, with deficiencies noted and, if necessary, your company fined accordingly. (For the record, OSHA does not have a direct role in creating 70E language, but does provide input through a voting member on the 70E Technical Committee.)

What kind of maintenance are we talking about? It encompasses several areas, from proper labeling and inspection procedures to testing and/or installation procedures for at least the following components:

  • Circuit breakers
  • Fuses
  • Protective relays
  • Substations, switchgear assemblies, panel boards, motor control centers, disconnect switches
  • Transfer switches and control equipment
  • Motors and generators
  • Equipment in hazardous locations
  • Batteries and battery rooms
  • Portable electric tools and equipment
  • Personal safety and protective equipment, including electrical gloves, hot sticks, and flash suits.
While use of proper personal protective equipment is required for working on electrical equipment, other steps—especially hazard elimination—must be considered for maximum protection. Photo courtesy Oberon Co.

While use of proper personal protective equipment is required for working on electrical equipment, other steps—especially hazard elimination—must be considered for maximum protection. Photo courtesy Oberon Co.

The safety goal

Preventing electrical accidents generally means taking the steps necessary to protect workers from shock and to prevent arc flash, the damaging explosion that can occur when high energy meets low resistance. If you’ve never seen what an arc flash looks like, several examples are available for viewing online. Watching just one can give you the best reason yet to ensure your plant’s electrical-safety program is everything it should be, which is also a goal of NFPA 70E 2015.

Interestingly, along with 70E’s added maintenance emphasis is another change that involves the use of personal protective equipment with regard to arc flash. “In the 2015 edition, arc-flash PPE is not required for normal operation of equipment if equipment is properly installed and maintained, all doors and covers are secure, and there is no evidence of impending failure,” said Daleep Mohla, principal consultant with Missouri City, TX-based DCM Electrical Consulting Services Inc.

A longtime contributor to IEEE (Institute of Electric and Electronics Engineers) Standards Association Working Groups, and considered an expert on 70E, Mohla currently specializes in 70E training.

Mohla added that “70E also made a major strategy shift in its new approach to electrical-hazard mitigation. Until the 2012 edition, mitigation was based on hazard. In 2015, mitigation is based on risk and risk assessment. It requires stakeholder evaluation and recognition of possible consequences to decide on the acceptable risk and mitigation.”

According to Rohrer, it’s important to know the difference between “hazard” and “risk.” While a hazard is considered “a source of possible injury or damage to health,” he said, the more broadly defined risk “refers to a combination of both the likelihood of injury occurrence and the severity.”

To that end Rohrer suggested that companies and employees consider the hierarchy of risk-control methods (as it appears in ANSI/AIHA Z10 and in NFPA 70E), noting that the most effective controls are featured at the top:

  • Hazard elimination
  • Substitution
  • Engineering controls
  • Warnings
  • Administrative controls
  • PPE

In this hierarchy, the most valuable action a plant can take—hazard elimination—means de-energization of the equipment. “It’s epidemic that companies are working on energized equipment when they could be shutting down,” said Rohrer. “Whether they’re using PPE or not, the first real prime directive of 70E and any electrical-safety standard is to de-energize whenever possible.”

Electrical-safety programs at world-class operations, he said, routinely prohibit working on energized equipment unless other options don’t exist. “Companies on the leading edge of electrically safe work practices have a policy of not working live,” said Rohrer. “They simply don’t work energized. The first thing they do is de-energize. Yes, there are instances where something absolutely has to be done energized. Certain diagnostics, for example, need to be done while the gear is energized. But, aside from that, they’re de-energizing.”

To be clear, said Rohrer, even after the power to equipment is shut off, “the equipment is still considered energized until you prove it otherwise. So you still have to use your PPE and go in and do a visual inspection, apply your lockout/tagout devices, and then use your meter to prove that it has, in fact, been de-energized. Then you have to lock it out and tag it out.” But he believes that choosing to de-energize is a critical first step in assuring electrical safety.

Naturally, seeking this high level of safety can cause problems when the need to de-energize equipment or shut down lines conflicts with operations’ need to keep things running. This is where planning and scheduling becomes vital. Coordinating shutdowns not only simplifies the process of completing electrical work, it helps avoid the debate that can crop up over the need to de-energize in the first place, a situation that can lead to confusion over standards and poor safety practices.

“There is an infeasibility clause that states you can work on energized gear if it’s infeasible to do the work de-energized,” said Rohrer. “But shutting down a line so you can safely perform work is not infeasible, it’s inconvenient, and a lot of plants mistake the two. They often claim that it’s infeasible to shut down this line to do that work, when, in fact, it’s not. Infeasible means it can’t be done any other way,” Rohrer concluded.

With electrical-related hazards, violations, and injuries showing no sign of letting up, standards groups—and OSHA—are devoting more time and effort to the promotion and enforcement of electrical safety. To keep your operation safe and up to date, ensure that your maintenance team is familiar with key information sources such as,,, and Also make sure that electrical contractors and outside service providers understand how 70E and other key electrical-safety rules fit in with your operation’s exact needs.  MT

Best Practices For Complying With NFPA 70E

  • Design inherently safe work practices
  • Preventive maintenance
  • Arc-flash risk assessment
  • Labeling and hazard communication plan
  • Design and methods review
  • Accurate single-line diagrams
  • Short-circuit and coordination studies
  • Electrical-safety program review and development
  • Arc-flash training program and PPE plan development
  • Documentation
  • Periodic reviews.

Source: Emerson Network Power, Electrical Reliability Services; Exiscan LLC, 2015.


2:35 pm
July 10, 2015
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Train, Audit Electrical Workers — It’s Mandatory


On-site audits and ongoing training determine whether your electrical workers meet industry qualifications and you’re complying with today’s strengthened electrical-safety standards.

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

Electrical workers who lack the proper training and skills to do their jobs are a risky business proposition for operations. Research by the Ponemon Institute, Traverse City, MI, has found that in critical facilities such as data centers, human error is a leading root cause of unexpected downtime that disrupts productivity, affects customer service, and takes a toll on the bottom line.

According Wally Vahlstrom of Emerson Network Power’s Electrical Reliability Services group, Columbus, OH, costly equipment failures and unplanned shutdowns are just the tip of the iceberg. Inadequate worker knowledge also increases the risk of electrical accidents. He cites U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports of 2,000 fatal and more than 24,000 non-fatal electrical injuries occurring over the past 10 years. Arc-flash incidents alone are said to claim one life every workday. “Many of these accidents,” Vahlsrom said, “can be mapped back to insufficient training, which results in failure to follow appropriate procedures or take the necessary safety precautions on the job.”

To help safeguard against potentially deadly consequences, organizations such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Washington, and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Quincy, MA, are strengthening their standards and redefining the qualifications needed to work on or near energized electrical equipment. The latest version of NFPA 70E: Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, for example, introduces new requirements for determining and validating a worker’s technical proficiency and competence with safety procedures.

Vahlstrom offers the following insight on what more-stringent standards mean for operations and explains how compliance with them can help a plant protect its personnel, equipment assets, and overall business.

The new definition of ‘qualified’

According to OSHA CFR 1910.269, a qualified worker is one who can demonstrate the skills and abilities to:

  • determine what hazards are faced on the job
  • assess the magnitude of those hazards
  • determine the proper work techniques to avoid the hazards
  • select the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to mitigate the hazards.

“Demonstrate is the operative word,” said Vahlstrom, “and the same verbiage now appears in the latest version of NFPA 70E.” The 2015 standard states that workers must demonstrate skills and knowledge related to the construction and operation of electrical equipment and installations, and not just be familiar with them.

Specifically, to be considered qualified to perform maintenance on electrical equipment and installations, NFPA 70E indicates that workers must demonstrate the ability to use:

  • special precautionary techniques
  • PPE including arc-flash suits
  • insulating and shielding materials
  • insulated tools and test equipment.

Vahlstrom emphasized that NFPA 70E also mandates additional training for employees who work within the limited-approach boundary of exposed energized electrical conductors and circuit parts operating at 50V or more.

Workers must demonstrate skills and knowledge related to the operation of equipment.

Workers must demonstrate skills and knowledge related to the operation of equipment.

Provide training

OSHA and NFPA provide guidance on the type and frequency of training required to ensure electrical workers meet the qualifications described above. “OSHA has indicated a preference for instructor-led training, as opposed to Web-based formats,” said Vahlstrom, “and NFPA stipulates that retraining (not just refresher training) must occur at least every three years.”

Moreover, all training must be documented, and supplementary training must be provided whenever any new procedures or practices are introduced, or when an audit indicates a need.

Vahlstrom said that, while training programs must be customized to the specific site and work to be performed, incorporating the following elements is a good place to start. At a minimum, a training program should focus on:

  • imparting a thorough understanding of the organization’s electrical-safety policy
  • building knowledge about the existence, nature, and cause of electrical hazards
  • developing the skills to identify electrical and arc-flash hazards and assessing the associated risk
  • ensuring the employee’s ability to select and use appropriate arc-flash PPE
  • ensuring the skills needed to read and follow hazard-warning labels
  • creating awareness of methods for reducing risks while working on live exposed parts.
Auditing worker skills

Vahlstrom stressed the fact that, in addition to providing appropriate training to qualify personnel, organizations must also audit work practices of individual electrical workers.

According to NFPA 70E 2015, “The employer shall determine, through regular supervision or through inspections conducted on at least an annual basis, that each employee is complying with the safety-related work practices required by this standard.” Vahlstrom pointed out that these activities offer an ideal opportunity for managers to observe and document employees’ demonstrated qualifications.

Although these audits are intended to be self-administered, i.e., developed and conducted by in-house staff, for various reasons, some operations look to outside providers for assistance (see sidebar). Whether your site works with such a partner or flies solo, Vahlstrom said it’s important to keep the following seven tips in mind:

NFPA 70E is a guideline. The specifics depend on the facility. A detailed, well-written electrical-safety policy is critical to protecting workers, assets, and the bottom line. While NFPA 70E offers excellent guidance, it is the facility’s responsibility to add the details specific to its own workplace. In other words, the safety policy, training programs, and worker audits should not address only what’s in the latest standards; but also the specific circumstances and conditions that affect worker safety and performance in the unique space.

Know what to look for. Because NFPA 70E is intended to be a guideline, it is somewhat vague in terms of what, specifically, needs to be addressed in annual worker audits. However, a facility’s electrical-safety policy provides a great place to start. Be sure employees understand and can carry out the specifics described in company policy, so an audit checklist should address these items.

Go where work is performed. It’s difficult to assess a worker’s skills and capabilities in a classroom setting. To determine whether an individual worker is truly able to identify a risk, quantify the magnitude of the hazard and properly use PPE. It’s important to observe the worker in real-world environments within the facility. Build on existing audit programs. To comply with OSHA and other NFPA requirements, you are likely already auditing other safety-related programs, such as lock out/tag out. To save time and effort, and maximize resources, you may be able to expand the scope of these existing audit efforts instead of building an entirely new electrical safety audit.

Remember that being qualified for one job does not automatically qualify a worker for another. OSHA and NFPA concur that employees may be qualified for some types of work methods and equipment, but not for others. It is critical for employees to receive job-specific training and demonstrate learned skills needed for each task to be performed. Furthermore, even if a previous employer has determined a worker’s qualifications, it’s up to the current employer to validate the skill sets and provide site-specific training.

Use audit results to refine your company’s training program. NFPA 70E 2015 stipulates the need to provide retraining if an annual worker audit identifies skill deficiencies. Such deficiencies could also indicate a need to overhaul portions of the safety-training program or policy. Should you choose to work with a partner to develop and implement your initial audit, you will benefit from expert advice on how to improve current safety training and better prepare electrical workers.

Maintain as well as train. No matter how skilled a workforce, if electrical equipment is not properly maintained, employees could still be at great risk. Updates to NFPA 70E 2015 address general-maintenance requirements, including the need to keep a single-line diagram up to date and to conduct maintenance on all electrical equipment (not just overcurrent protective devices).

Knowledge is power

Vahlstrom acknowledged that new requirements to qualify employees for electrical work and audit their safety-related skills might seem taxing to some facilities. “But,” he cautioned, “this is one test a site can’t afford to fail.”

Taking a knowledge-based approach to this test, he said, be it in-house or with the support of an outside service provider, will help your operations build a customized audit program that does more than simply comply with today’s stricter electrical-safety standards. “It could prevent injuries or shutdowns. It could even save a life.” MT

Wally Vahlstrom is director of technical services for Emerson Network Power’s Electrical Reliability Services group, based in Columbus, OH. He brings more than 40 years of electrical-engineering experience to his position, where he is responsible for failure investigation work, conformity assessment services, power-system studies, and reliability analysis.

A Knowledge-Based Approach to Compliance

Beefed-up OSHA and NFPA 70E safety standards now require operations to qualify employees for electrical work and audit their safety-related skills. Although such activities are intended to be self administered, some facilities turn to professional electrical engineering or testing providers for support. Typically well-versed in the latest standards, these types of suppliers can also provide assistance and guidance on how to train in-house auditors and how to properly document the annual audit process according to new requirements.

If your site turns to an outside provider for support, make sure your chosen partner:

  • takes the time to thoroughly understand your safety policy and current training program
  • assesses the condition of your electrical-distribution system
  • reviews site-specific standard-operating procedures
  • becomes familiar with each worker’s job scope and responsibilities.

The same holds true for organizations that administer newly required electrical-worker qualification and audit programs on an in-house basis.

Learn more

For additional information, visit these websites: