Plant Safety

Topics: Occupational safety and health, Electric shock, Electricity generation Pages: 10 (3635 words) Published: March 1, 2014
In the past several decades, power plant owners and industry in general have vastly improved employee safety. Numerous organizations that hand down safety requirements and regulations have been established, creating a safer work environment. Although power plants are much safer than they once were, plant employees still encounter many hazards, and it is up to employers to implement programs and policies aimed at eliminating accidents. The Boy Scout motto “be prepared” certainly applies when it comes to power plant employee safety. Comprehensive training, detailed pre-job planning, and proper and well-maintained safety equipment are key to accident prevention, regardless of the hazard. Among the most common hazards to power plant workers are electrical shocks and burns, boiler fires and explosions, and contact with hazardous chemicals. While these are most certainly not the only hazards encountered by power plant workers, they are definitely worth review. Electrical Hazards

Michael Foley is an electrical safety instructor with National Technology Transfer Inc., an Englewood, Colo.-based company that provides nationwide training to utility, industrial and commercial electrical workers in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) and the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA’s) electrical safe work practices. In addition, he is president of Technical Consultants Group Ltd., an electro-forensic investigative firm based in Denver. Foley understands the perils of working around electricity, as well as the precautions that should be taken to avoid injuries and accidents. He explains that there is really not a good common system in place for reporting and recording the number and type of electrical injuries and fatalities that occur in power plants or general industry for that matter. According to Foley, many of the reported numbers are “soft” and can be misleading. “For example,” Foley says, “a worker on a platform could hit a power line, receive an electrical shock and fall from the platform, breaking an arm or leg, or worse. This accident could easily be reported and classified as a fall, even though the fall was obviously caused from an electrical shock. “Another example could be a worker who drops a screwdriver near open-bus, energized electrical switchgear and receives a burn from a subsequent arc flash,” says Foley. “This incident might be reported as a burn, not an electrical arc-flash incident.” Even with the potential for these incidents to be wrongly classified, the Electrical Safety Foundation International reports that an average of 133 workers die each year due to contact with power lines. In addition, most authoritative sources on electrical incidents report that approximately 400 general industry workers, including power plant workers, die each year from electrical shocks. When combined, these figures represent one or two deaths daily due to electrical incidents. Although these numbers may not seem that large when compared to the total number of people working around electrical hazards, even one death or serious accident can be extremely costly and devastating to a company. The National Safety Council estimates that an electrocution death costs about $1 million. This figure includes costs of lost productivity over the life of the employee, direct medical expenses and insurance premiums. Foley believes that this is only a small portion of the actual costs associated with such an accident, because it does not reflect the cost of legal liability - such as defending against lawsuits. He also points out that this figure does not represent costs associated with severe injuries, such as burns, that do not cause death. Because of the expense associated with treating serious burns, the long recovery time associated with them and the debilitating nature of burns, the costs can be much more than the National Safety Council’s $1 million estimate. Generally, electric shocks or electrocutions are...
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