Construction Safety: The risk of being electrocuted
A construction worker on a site in Europe was electrocuted when he came into contact with a live wire/cable on which he was working. It killed him and the general contractor was fined 300,000 Euros. You might wonder why the fine?
Electrical workers on a construction site must follow an established set of rules for protecting each other. They are not supposed to be working on energized lines. The rules are known as the “lockout/tagout” procedure rules. (LOTO) The purpose of the rule is to protect workers from energized wires, cables and lines. What most people don’t understand is that workers can be a long ways away from the fuse box where energy to the plant wiring system is controlled. If a worker were to turn on the juice without notifying other workers who had turned it off, those other workers could be killed by electrocution. To prevent a worker who turns off the juice locks the fuse box and attaches his tag to the lock. This system if used properly will prevent electrocutions.
Now if another worker comes along and he too is going to work on the wiring system and needs it to be turned off, or de-energized, he will lock his lock with tag to the first electricians lockout-tagout. That way if the first worker comes back to the fuse box he will see the second electrician’s LOTO warning him that some other worker is working on the electrical system. Before the first electrician can turn the juice back on he first must locate the second LOTO electrician and get his approval.
It’s not unusual to have many LOTO’s on the fuse box. That protects everyone in line so they are not mistakenly electrocuted.
So why then is the General Contractor (the GC) in this case fined? In most construction contracts the GC is the ultimate authority that controls safety on the construction site. The GC has the right and responsibility to enforce safety practices. If workers are ignoring established safety practices it is the GC that must discipline the offender. In the case of busy job sites, it’s not unusual for the GC to look the other way in order to speed up the work. Deadlines looming can cause GC’s to ignore their duty to enforce safety rules. And when this happens it can be deadly.
On this job the GC was probably ignoring its duty to enforce the rules and the labor commission came down hard on them. Reputation does follow us.
With so many electrical workers in so many different jobs OSHA has a general rule for LOTO procedures. LOTO is so vitally important that schools exist that can teach the proper procedures that have to be followed.
There is even an online Hazmat OSHA LOTO Instructional Course. I’ll include the course curriculum outline below. Considering the benefits the $45.00 course fee is minimal. The photographs on this site clearly show what you should expect to see with LOTO at the fuse box.
Upon successful completion of this course the student shall have satisfied the requirements for training in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.147 and other similar state OSHA regulations and will demonstrate competency and have an understanding of:
1. Define what is meant by Lock Out Tag Out (LOTO or Lockout/Tagout) and when it is used.
2. Identify the importance of LOTO.
3. Understand the roles and responsibilities of those involved with LOTO including LOTO users, those who may come across LOTO, and employers.
4. Know the requirements of the LOTO regulations and where to find them in 29 CFR1910.147.
5. Know the different types of LOTO training and how they apply to the job.
6. List the three parts of a LOTO program including the development of a written program, the training of employees and how and when to implement the LOTO program.
7. Understand how and when LOTO “refresher” training is to be conducted.
8. Understand and define the different types of energy that might be encountered using LOTO. This includes potential energy, kinetic energy, electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic, and water/gas energy.
9. List the requirements of an Energy Control Program.
10. Know how and when to properly apply locks and other devises as part of a LOTO program.
11. Understand the advantages, disadvantages and limitations of locks and tags as part of a LOTO program.
12. Be able to list the steps of applying LOTO on the job. This includes proper notification, awareness of energy hazards, controlling the hazards (including blanking and bleeding off energy), applying LOTO, performing the work, removing equipment used and LOTO equipment, restarting the equipment and making proper notifications.
13. Understand considerations when working with outside contractors and LOTO.
For GC’s laminated posters explaining LOTO can be purchased for $25 to $30.00.