By Lisa Rivers, Occupational Safety & Health Specialist, USACRCMarch 8, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (March 8, 2017) - According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), electrical hazards cause a workplace death almost every day. Between 2003 and 2009, contact with electric current was the seventh leading cause for an occupational fatality and electrical burns are the second most costly injury. According to an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspection data inquiry, electrical hazards are the Army's most cited violation in FY 2016. However, these numbers do not include our forward deployed locations and the underreporting of electrical shocks.
In September 2016, the DoD Office of Inspector General (OIG) released their quarterly report that consisted of inspections completed in 2016. It determined that at least four forward deployed U.S. military-occupied locations did not comply with DoD health and safety policies. The DoD OIG identified significant deficiencies in electrical and fire protection systems as well as construction and maintenance concerns that, without attention, could affect the health, safety, and well-being of the warfighters.
At one location, the DoD OIG found 286 deficiencies in electrical and fire protection systems and of these deficiencies, 154 related to fire protection and 132 related to electrical systems. The DOD OIG determined that 77 of the deficiencies were critical and required immediate corrective action.
At another forward deployed location, the inspection found 538 deficiencies in electrical and fire protection systems of which 198 were related to electrical systems and 340 related to fire protection systems. According to the report, the causes of the majority of these deficiencies were insufficient inspection, inadequate maintenance, lack of an effective maintenance and inspection plan, and ineffective project oversight. In addition, they did not have any permanent, government-employed master electricians or fire protection engineers; the maintenance contract did not require that the contractor perform electrical maintenance to any specific standard; and the contract inspection, testing, and maintenance requirements for fire alarm and fire protection systems did not reference the appropriate Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC).
"Safe design is critical in protecting our warfighters, Army civilians, and contractors, as well as our facilities and equipment," said Nancy Vyas, safety engineer, U.S. Army Research Laboratory. "Using proven safe design strategies, the DoD Electrical Safety Working Group (ESWG) developed safe design tools to guide design, evaluation for acceptance, and acquisition for DoD's equipment, facilities, ships, solar photovoltaic systems, and electric vehicles to reduce the probability of failure."
ESWG has developed checklists, electrical safety awareness training, identified deficiencies in training and developed the Electrical Hazard Classification Mobile Application e-Tool, found at the following link: http://apps.ctc.com/esafe-pro, to allow identification of previously unrecognized electrical hazards in equipment, weapon systems, and facilities, as well as provide specific guidance for work control for both Civilian and Military applications. The group has also analyzed and identified cause of over 1,000 DoD electrical mishaps and developed specific prevention strategies.
By assuring that electrical systems and equipment are designed to function effectively in the environments of use, safe design is an important contributor to the likelihood of mission success. However, potential exposure to electrical hazards can also be reduced by performing a thorough hazard analysis prior to the start of any work, training workers on safe work practices, and supervising the implementation of those practices during the performance of work that involves potential encounters with electrical hazards.
"It's a combination of the two," Vyas said. "Safe design and safe work practices, which help reduce the number of potential electrical near misses and accidents."