Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Electrical Safety in the Theatre

Electricity can pose a serious hazard in the workplace, however, it is unlikely that we’ll be doing much without it in the foreseeable future.  Lighting, sound, rigging, projection, and tools all require it.  A 12-year study by the National Instituteof Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) identified 244 workplace deaths thatwere the direct result of an electrical accident.  Misuse or neglect of electrical equipment puts employees at risk of electrical shock, electrocution, fires, and explosions.  Making your crew / staff / guests / employees aware of the risks and teaching them to following basic safety principles will help reduce the chance of electrical-related accidents at your venue.

Basic Electrical Safety Principles

It is important for employers to be aware of the risks associated with electrical equipment. When planning or performing work on or near electrical equipment or machinery, the safety tips that follow will reduce the risk of an accident:
  • Plan ahead; consider possible problems that may occur and how to prevent them.
  • Use the right tools for the job including procedures, drawings, and other documents.
  • Identify all potential hazards in the work space, including the risk of electrical shock.
  • Test every circuit and every conductor; every time, to ensure that they are powered-down before service.
  • Train workers to ensure that they have the skills and experience required to perform work around electrical equipment.
  • De-energize all electrical equipment and conductors before beginning work.
  • Treat electrical equipment and conductors as energized until lockout / tagout (LOTO) and grounding procedures have been implemented.
  • Wear protective clothing, including hard hats, insulated clothing, and gloves.
  • Only use insulated tools.
  • Determine approach boundaries and comply with suggested minimum clearances for power lines or exposed conductors.
Electrical Safety Regulations and Standards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a number of regulations relating to workplace electrical safety. Some important regulations include 29 CFR 1910: Subpart Electrical:
 The following National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards cover electrical safety:
Checklist of Workplace Electrical Safety Practices
  • Require employees to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when working on or near electrical equipment.  Depending upon the Arc Flash Hazard present, this may involve donning special clothing, gloves, hoods, and face shields.
  • Inform employees as to the location of potential electrical safety hazards.  Inform them before they enter the work area AND mark the specific hazards with signage, barrier tape, etc.
  • Establish an effective lockout / tagout (LOTO) procedure for working on electrical circuits and equipment.
  • Use safe work practices to prevent shock or other injuries.  De-energize live equipment, discharge capacitors, use lockout / tagout (LOTO) procedures, wear the appropriate level of PPE, and never work alone.
  • Only permit trained or approved personnel to perform maintenance or work on electrical equipment.  Thinking you know what you are doing is not the same as being trained and certified.  Have a second person check you work afterwards to ensure that wiring connections are the proper polarity (Hot, Neutral, Ground), and that covers are re-installed after work as is completed.
  • Ensure that all portable electrical tools are grounded or insulated properly.  Use Portable Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) if the power source is not already protected.  Inspect all cords and devices to ensure that cord strain reliefs are properly clamped to the cable casing.
  • Install and cover electrical boxes and fittings in accordance with the National Electrical Code (NFPA 70) and other regulations.  When removing covers, make sure that screws are not lost (use magnetic holders to retain loose parts where practical).  When working at height, secure covers with safety lanyards before removing the final attachment fasteners.
  • Have someone who is trained and certified in the National Electrical Code (NFPA 70) inspect the electrical system regularly.  This includes cleaning-out the dust and dirt from inside Dimmer Cabinets, Floor Pockets, and Circuit Breaker Panels; Replacing / Repairing broken switches & receptacles; Repairing / Replacing broken or overheated lamp holders; and checking the wiring lugs in feeder panels with an infrared thermometer to ensure that they are tight and not overheating.
  • Train appropriate individuals in the use of fire protection equipment and emergency response procedures.  Know the difference between a Safety Program and an Emergency Preparedness Plan.  A Safety Program, if well implemented, may save you from ever needing to implement your Emergency Preparedness Plan.
  • Develop procedures to replace and dispose of damaged or defective electrical cords, circuits, or other electrical equipment.  Implement a ‘Tag and Bag’ process to identify and mark equipment that must be repaired or replaced.  Do not store defective equipment where it may be accessible to the casual user so that it is not inadvertently utilized.  Assigning Inventory Numbers to equipment can help to log and track items in the repair process, and also may help you to track repair expenses.
More Information:
ESFi web site:  http://esfi.org/
Electrical Construction and Maintenance Magazine:  http://ecmweb.com/
Mike Holt web site:  www.MikeHolt.com

1 comment:

  1. Ensure all power outlets and switches have faceplates covering the wiring. Exposed wiring is a shock hazard.