Safety Products For The Power and Electric Utility Industry
We depend on the power and electric industry to run virtually all aspects of our lives, from our homes and schools to companies and government organizations.
According to the Edison Electrical Institute, the total number of customers served by the electric power industry in 2018 totaled 153 million, and the electricity generation was over four million gigawatt-hours.
While the electric industry powers much of the U.S., constructing a powerline is a dangerous task and requires elaborate safety training, regulation, and constant vigilance. Here is an overview of the industry and the necessary safety equipment.
The Industry At a Glance
Revenue from the electric power industry has steadily increased over the past decade and totaled $402 billion in 2018. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the construction of transmission lines has also increased by 5.5 percent from 2015 to 2020.
However, constructing a powerline involves many hazards to the environment, the community, and the employees. Therefore, several government organizations oversee the transmission, construction, and distribution of power and electricity.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) oversee power and electric construction safety in the United States and offer training resources for employers. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates powerline construction's environmental impact and works with companies to decrease the carbon footprint.
Electric and Powerline Worker Safety
As the power and electric industry continues to grow, keeping workers safe in hazardous conditions is a primary focus. In 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 26 workers lost their lives performing electric power generation, transmission, and distribution jobs.
The fatal accidents reported were caused by trip and falls, fires and explosions, contact with dangerous objects and equipment, and exposure to harmful substances or environments.
Unfortunately, most of these accidents are easily preventable and occur due to violations of industry laws. Failing to wear appropriate personal protective equipment and use proper safety equipment is usually the cause of these accidents.
Therefore, it’s the manager’s responsibility to provide a safe environment and ensure that all employees are well trained and adhere to safety protocol.
Environmental Hazards of Power and Electric Construction
The United States government views overhead and underground power lines as environmental concerns, and managers are charged with responsibilities to reduce their team’s carbon footprint.
One of the biggest issues with powerline construction is the destruction of land and other natural resources. Research shows that by eliminating natural habitats, wildlife ecosystems can be dramatically destabilized and negatively impact biodiversity.
Power Lines are also a public health hazard. The American Cancer Society released a statement that power lines emit extremely low frequency (ELF) radiation, which is harmful to humans living nearby.
Additionally, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that approximately 5 percent of all electricity in power lines is lost during transmission. The line loss indirectly causes carbon emissions, which contribute to the greenhouse effect.
Finally, sulfur hexafluoride, one of the most potent greenhouse gases, is used to insulate high-voltage circuit breakers and switches. As the equipment ages, the gas is emitted into the air and negatively impacts the surrounding air quality.
Use The Right Safety Equipment
As a manager, one of the best ways to reduce accidents is by providing your employees with the safety equipment they need. Here are some recommendations to make your worksite a safer environment.
Using ladders made of non-conductive wood or fiberglass will significantly reduce the risk of electrocution and is also an OSHA regulation. If there are any conductive ladders on the worksite, they must be labeled with stickers that say, "Caution, do not use around electrical equipment."
For overhead power lines of 50,000 volts, ladders should be at least 10 feet away. For powerlines with voltages over 50,000, ladders should be kept 35 feet away.
Another essential piece of safety equipment is a body harness. OSHA requires that all personnel elevated six feet or more wear body harnesses. This prevents injury from trip and falls, and bucket flipping accidents.
OSHA outlines the requirements of the design and material of fall harnesses in 1910.269(g)(2). Specifically, the hardware should be made of drop-forged steel, pressed steel, formed steel, or equivalent material. All D-rings, buckles, and other materials must also sustain weight limits set by OSHA.
Personal Protective Equipment
Personal Protective Equipment is another important aspect of power and electric safety. OSHA requires that each worker is equipped with personal protective equipment, including insulating gloves with sleeves and industrial-grade helmets.
Steel-toed boots are also useful to protect against heavy falling objects.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, slip and fall accidents caused several deaths at powerline worksites in 2018. These accidents can be reduced substantially by using safe matting. At Checkers Safety, we offer a variety of matting solutions that include patterned grip specifically designed to reduce slip and fall accidents in industrial workplaces. The NoTrax Diamond Switchboard Matting is ideal for power and electric safety as it is non-conductive and can withstand up to 17,000 volts.
A spark on a powerline worksite could turn deadly in an instant. Therefore, it's essential to protect cables from corrosion with world-class cable protection. At Checkers Safety, we provide a variety of cable protection solutions that range from one to five lanes and can withstand 68,000 pounds.
These cable solutions also reduce trip and fall accidents that could result in both employee and pedestrian injury.
Barricades and Warning Whips
Barricades should also be used on powerline construction sites. OSHA training requires workers to erect barricades around high voltage areas to protect employees and pedestrians. Other visibility markers, such as warning whips, are also recommended within 20 feet of hazardous areas.
If your team needs quality warning whips, Checkers Safety offers a wide variety. As recommended by OSHA, all of ours are highly visible, and many even feature lights and flashers for extra protection.
While accidents are inevitable, there are plenty of safety precautions managers can take to reduce risk. Investing in a quality work environment with durable safety equipment is one of the best ways to keep your employees and community safe.Related Reading