How to Reduce Electrical Hazards in Your Metal-Fab Shop

In order to make sure health and safety standards are held high in metal-fabrication shops, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) works diligently to by providing training, education, outreach, and assistance as well as enforcing standards. OSHA will visit metal-fabrication shops and other businesses to conduct safety inspections and write up citations for situations in which regulations are not met and employee safety is at stake.

One of the biggest areas that OSHA cites companies for is electrical hazards. In fact, OSHA has reported that an average of one worker a day dies on the job from an electrical hazard. The organization has reported that the metal-fabrication industry has paid more than $750,000 in electrical-hazard citations.

Provide Proper Training for All Your Employees

Before anyone works alone on the metal-fab shop floor, they should be properly trained on the equipment they will be using. This includes thoroughly knowing all the safety procedures for a given piece of equipment. Employees must feel comfortable working with that machine through proper training so they will be able to use good judgment and common sense to keep the risks of electrical hazards low. If you only focus on the basics when training your employees, you should at least include the following information.

  • Never stand too close to energized machine parts, and be sure to always maintain a safe distance, which is determined on a machine-by-machine basis.
  • Always follow lockout and tag procedures to make sure electrical equipment remains de-energized.

  • Always wear insulating protective equipment, including rubber-soled shoes, on the shop floor.

  • Use proper procedures for how to turn off and unplug electrical equipment and tools and when to turn these items off.

Incorporate Safe Work Practices to Follow After Training Is Over

As a metal-fabrication shop owner, it is essential that you promote safe work practices in your company. In addition to teaching new employees how to be safe from the get-go, you need to make sure there are procedures in place for employees to continue to follow during their employment in your company. The most important things you can do to practice safety at work in order to reduce electrical hazards and prevent injury include the following.

  • Demand that your employees always turn off and unplug electric equipment before making any repairs.

  • Insist that any and all electric equipment is unplugged prior to inspections, no matter how quick the inspection is expected to be.

  • Enforce a regular maintenance schedule to keep all electric tools and equipment working properly.

  • Expect all employees to be cautious and aware of their surrounding when working near electric lines and wires.

  • Require that everyone on the shop floor, whether they are employees or not, wear the appropriate protective equipment for the area they are in.

Add an Equipment-Grounding Conductor to All Electrical Machines

Any type of crack or break in an electric machine's or tool's insulation will make that tool or machine become energized. This means that the equipment now conducts electricity, and if you touch that piece of equipment, you could get shocked, burned, or even electrocuted. To prevent this type of electrical hazard, all electric machines and tools in your shop need to have an equipment-grounding conductor to direct any unwanted electrical current to the ground. When things are properly installed, if some electricity isn't sent into the ground and ends up passing through an employee's body, the amount of electricity will be greatly reduced and the risk of injury not as substantial.

If your tools or equipment have a three-prong plug, then they already have grounding conductors built in. If not, then you should call in an electrician to install a grounding conductor on any item that doesn't have one.

Since it's OSHA's job to ensure companies provide employees with safe and healthful working conditions, it is important that you do all that you can to reduce the risk of electrical hazards in your company. By following the above tips, you will be well on your way to creating a safer working environment for your employee.