New studies identify the gap between being trained and being electrically safe

Sept. 17, 2020
Thomas Wilk says these surveys present a picture of multiple risk layers for plants when it comes to electrical safety.

Welcome to the second of this year’s special themed issues of Plant Services, where we pull together a series of articles on a single topic in order to take an extra deep dive into what industry is hearing and saying.

From the Editor

This article is part of our monthly From the Editor column. Read more from Thomas Wilk.

This month that topic is electrical safety, and we revisit our 2018 survey in this area with two fresh sets of research data. The first set is our very own update to that previous survey, one that delivers a clear message from experienced electrical professionals on whether they consider their own facilities to be electrically up to code, and whether they think they and their peers are sufficiently trained in this area.

Spoiler: the headline of “Red Alert” reflects the mood among our respondents that things have not improved since 2018. In an era where plants have, by necessity, been widening their safety focus to protect against external threats (i.e., drone attacks, cyber-threats) as well as the health risks posed by COVID-19,  this year’s survey points toward a greater need for training on up-to-date standards like NFPA 70E. The high level of concern over a lack of effective electrical maintenance has stayed the same since 2018, and respondents also are increasingly concerned over the efficacy of day-to-day tasks to keep people safe, such as internal communications, lockout/tagout procedures, and PPE effectiveness.

In this issue we also present excerpts from a study released this year by Littelfuse that examined the danger that electrical shock presents to industry. The Littelfuse study probed the mindset of workers who come into contact with electrical systems and/or energized equipment, and the data offer some powerful insights about how workers may be unwittingly putting themselves at risk.

The first key insight is that most of the respondents who reported having experienced more than a 220V shock also rated themselves as either “very confident” or “extremely confident” when they were asked to rate their ability to recognize an electrical hazard. And a second key insight borne out by the Littelfuse survey data is that in the heat of the moment, even the best safety training tends to be forgotten.

When these studies are taken together, they present a picture of multiple risk layers for plants when it comes to electrical safety. After all, it’s difficult to mitigate electrical risks if people who are safety-trained do not have a good sense what level of equipment voltage to ground is safe to work on or near, or when nearly 20% of Plant Services survey respondents say their facilities do not have a policy in place on energized work.

This issue also includes an article on the future of VR-enabled and/or remote electrical safety training, and a review of the latest advances in electrical safety equipment and PPE.

About the Author

Thomas Wilk | editor in chief

Thomas Wilk joined Plant Services as editor in chief in 2014. Previously, Wilk was content strategist / mobile media manager at Panduit. Prior to Panduit, Tom was lead editor for Battelle Memorial Institute's Environmental Restoration team, and taught business and technical writing at Ohio State University for eight years. Tom holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MA from Ohio State University

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