A hierarchy of control measures regarding occupational safety in the field of electrical installations is the main approach for accident prevention, as well as for the protection of electrical equipment. The hierarchy of hazard control methods is the culmination of all aspects of occupational safety, as it helps engineers establish and prioritize the best methods to ensure the protection of the electrical teams in the facility and beyond.
Despite the constant decrease in the number of accidents caused by interventions at electrical installations, they are still a common cause of workers’ injuries. These incidents are often caused by insufficient awareness of the dangers. Awareness should be about the danger itself, the use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), even as to how long the worker has been acquainted and trained with the SSM, but also the prior knowledge of the electrical installations in which they work, the way of carrying out the activity, tracking and training by the team leader of the workers on the dangers that may arise during the work.
Among the most important aspects in avoiding and preventing accidents at work in electrical installations is the periodic training and training of employees according to Law no. 319 of July 14, 2006. The purpose of this law is to establish measures to promote the improvement of the safety and health of workers. The presence of the law establishes general principles regarding the prevention of the occupational risks, the protection of the health and safety of the workers, the elimination of the risk and accident factors, the information, the consultation, the balanced participation according to the law, the training of the workers and their representatives, as well as the general directions for the implementation of these principles.
Another aspect is the regular training of electricians in order to test their technical knowledge, as well as to see if they have learned the aspects of accident prevention in electrical installations.
Safety in electrical installations: controls for hazard management
The hierarchy of controls is a fundamental approach and must be well established for the management of hazards in installations. Using this approach, installations must use the highest level of control possible. The hierarchy begins with effective elimination of hazards. Not all hazards can be eliminated, but the more serious the controls are designed and implemented, the more secure an installation is.
The hierarchy of control methods is ensured by the sequence:
- Technical controls
- Administrative controls
- Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Law no. 319 we can say that follows the model of the hierarchy of controls in hazard management. It establishes the decoupling of energy sources as a preferred approach to working on or around electrical installations and emphasizes that the level of control by individual protective equipment should be only an additional level of protection and not the main level of protection. This class of controls is considered the least effective safety method because it focuses on the worker instead of the risk and does not address the root cause of the hazard.
This is why a hierarchy of controls requires that the most widely used means of determining the implementation of feasible and efficient control solutions is necessary. Exposure control to occupational hazards must be a fundamental method of protecting workers at installations that may present electrical hazards.
The false sense of safety and awareness goes beyond simple self-assessment, as evidenced by the identification of a “normal deviation of deviation” among electrical incidents at work.
Normalization of deviation is a process that starts from a safety standard and then gradually deviates to what becomes an accepted practice and actually starts to function as new normality. This is significant in the context of the topic of this article, because:
- Standardization of deviation underlines how difficult it is for a company to prevent human error in a given work environment. Because this deviation is gradual, it is difficult to detect as it happens or even after it happens. Incidents are unavoidable in installations that do not focus safety on a minimum set of controls.
- The gradual and undetected degradation that appears in the normalization of the deviation is similar to the way in which people often believe that they control their field of activity and work with a subjective version of reality. This may explain why 40% of the survey respondents were not familiar with the hierarchy of controls and yet most said they were familiar with SSM issues.
- Most of the survey respondents work in installations with equipment that are exposed to the risk of electric arc. And yet, one in three respondents said they had an electric arc incident.
Analyzes of high risk industries indicate that human error is often a leading cause of incidents. For example, one factor that contributes to the occurrence of many electrical injuries in the event of an incident is the failure to use appropriate personal protective equipment for safe work in electrical installations.
Companies need to implement education, awareness and re-evaluation projects focused on reducing human error. No one should assume that the level of awareness or knowledge of risks or of a subject is complete.
Eliminating all electrical hazards is not always possible. The next best option is to implement a substitution method, such as resistance monitors, current limiting fuses, or electromechanical relays. Otherwise, use automation protection.
In no way should we have that the main system for mitigating hazards is individual protective equipment, because it is a quick and easy approach. Incidents in electrical installations, especially those with open springs, often destroy equipment and injure or kill workers. Use the hierarchy of controls and you will have an efficient system that will give you safety in the event of interventions at electrical installations.
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