Electrical Safety-Related Work Practices

May 19, 2008
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Wesley Wheeler, safety director and project manager for Cogburn Brothers, Inc., an HVAC mechanical contractor based in Jacksonville, Fla., spoke to attendees at the Florida Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractor’s Association (FRACCA) annual conference.

ORLANDO - Should employees of HVACR contracting businesses know as much as possible about Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) safety issues? Yes, according to Wesley Wheeler, safety director and project manager for Cogburn Brothers Inc., an HVAC mechanical contractor based in Jacksonville, Fla.

Wheeler spoke to attendees at the Florida Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractor’s Association (FRAACA) annual conference in Orlando in April, centering his comments around OSHA updated Rule 29 CFR 1910 Subpart S, which includes personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements.

“OSHA compliance is written in performance-based language,” Wheeler said. “This includes the word ‘shall’ as in ‘the employer shall furnish, shall comply,’ etc.”

He cited PPE section of 29 CFR, which states, “The employer shall assess the workplace to determine if hazards are present, or likely to be present, which necessitate the use of personal protective equipment.”

Wheeler said it is the responsibility of contractors to have someone who is experienced in assessing the jobsite to evaluate it and look for potential electrical hazards, which is outlined in 29 CFR under the following description, “The employer shall verify that the required assessment has been performed through a written certification.”

He also noted that the standard requires safety-related work practices to prevent jobsite injuries. “Who has been trained in the proper testing techniques?” Wheeler asked. “OSHA will look at the employer for non-compliance, and not the employee.”

He pointed out some other subparts in 29 CFR that HVACR contractors should be aware of:

• How do you know your employees are qualified to work on electrical equipment?

• What processes do you have to ensure that a person is properly trained and tested?

• What type of PPE are employees using, e.g., plastic face shields that melt down or those with glass to protect in the event of an arc flash?

Wheeler cited National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) - 70E, which outlines electrical safety-related work practices including training and hazard risk assessment, critical elements to ensuring jobsite safety.

“Your people need to be trained about electrical hazards the day they come to work for you, not six months down the road,” he said.

One FRACCA member asked Wheeler about an employee who is properly trained, signs off that he is properly trained, but refuses to comply with safety practices.

“The employer is still responsible,” answered Wheeler. “You must show that you are enforcing the proper training for your employees.”

Wheeler used the NFPA - 70E “Lockout/Tagout” paragraph to support the need for training. “Make sure your company has a written lockout/tagout procedure and that everyone understands it,” he said.

According to Wheeler, when a well-trained employee complies with OSHA and NFPA requirements, he or she shall greatly reduce the risk of injury and fines/litigation against their employer.

Publication date: 05/19/2008

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