Electrical Safety Programs for Electrical Contractors

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By Terry Becker, P.Eng., IEEE Senior Member, CESCP

Too often I am told by Electrical Contractors that they have a policy that says they do not work energized;  therefore they don’t need an Electrical Safety Program.  They may not even have arc flash or shock PPE and may have never provided Arc Flash & Shock Training to their electrical workers.  There is a misconception that just opening a circuit breaker or by disconnecting a switch and turning the power off is all that is required.  However, testing for the absence of voltage is also energized electrical work.

When I work with companies who hire Electrical Contractors I advise them that they are “Prime Contractor” for their facilities where the employees of the Electrical Contractors they hire will perform energized electrical work.  They, therefore, carry OH&S Regulatory risk the same as for their employees. The Company should ensure their due diligence is maximized by holding Electrical Contractors accountable for having their own compliant Electrical Safety Program, training certificates for Arc Flash & Shock Training (not awareness training and not just Arc Flash), as well as appropriate Electrical Specific PPE, Tools & Equipment.

I am concerned that Electrical Contractors do not “see” the need for development, implementing and auditing a compliant Electrical Safety Program.  Electrical Contractors business is energized electrical work related to commissioning new construction and performing ongoing electrical equipment maintenance for their clients.  Electrical Contractors employees “Work On” electrical equipment.  Energized diagnostics and troubleshooting (e.g., voltage measurement, and current measurement) is energized work.  Testing for “zero” voltage to Establish an Electrically Safe Work Condition is energized electrical work.  Performing “isolation” related work tasks isn’t maintenance work, but energized electrical work tasks required to Establish an Electrically Safe Work Condition.  Journeyman Electricians and other Task Qualified Electrical Workers are exposed to arc flash and shock hazards performing these work tasks.

Electrical Contractors need compliant Electrical Safety Programs to ensure they have appropriate policies, and practices based on the CSA Z462 Workplace electrical safety Standard documented.  The Electrical Safety Program would provide for field-based documentation to be completed by Journeyman Electricians and other Task Qualified Workers so that CSA Z462’s requirements for completing a Job Safety Plan and Job Briefing for energized electrical work task occurs.  The Journeyman Electrician or other Task Qualified Worker shall document an energized electrical work task’s Shock and Arc Flash Risk Assessments.

Without a compliant Electrical Safety Program, an Electrical Contractor will not have appropriate due diligence in place for OH&S Regulations.

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