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Electrical Safety While Working Underground

Editorial Team May 27, 2018 0
Electrical Safety While Working Underground

The construction industry is one of the most dangerous sectors to work in. Every year, hundreds of incidents are observed by the government of United States. The nature of construction industries does pose big risks to health and physical well-being, and it’s worth highlighting that the majority of incidents occur because construction companies fail to implement safety and health protocols and training.

The US Department of Labor, through its Occupational Safety and Health Administration, sets out to outline guidelines for employers to follow. Some employers pay close attention to employee training and ensure safety for all. But some slack on this commitment, leading employees to work in hazardous environments, causing them physical harm in the process.

Underground mining is one of the riskiest jobs. Employees may face issues such as difficulty in accessing or exiting, potential for exposure to air containments, working under reduced light conditions, and the hazards of fire, explosion, and electrocution. OSHA’s NFPA 70e training powerpoint outlines various safety precautions, including the underground construction regulations to prevent electrocution. It applies to the construction of underground tunnels, shafts, chambers, and passageways.

Requirement for a Competent Person

According to OSHA, the “competent person” shall be able to identify existing and predictable hazards. This includes environments and working conditions which are hazardous, unsanitary, or dangerous to employees.

The person shall have authorization and responsibility to take appropriate actions to correct the situation.

Training for Employees:

Before preventions against electrocution can be put in place, employers must provide employees with training specific to their work environment. Employees must be trained to recognize and respond to hazards associated with this type of work.

Determining if the Work Area is Flammable

Due to the nature of underground excavations, it is important to test for methane and other flammable gases.

OSHA dictates that electrical power must be cut off if the work area has been identified to contain 20 percent or more of the lower explosive limit for methane and other flammable gases. Click To Tweet

OSHA dictates that electrical power must be cut off if the work area has been identified to contain 20 percent or more of the lower explosive limit for methane and other flammable gases. All employees must be evacuated to a safe location. Only machines acceptable for pumping and ventilation equipment are allowed to operate in such situations.

Electricity stations must be kept away from gas sources. If the two collide due to any fault, it can cause catastrophic damage.

Drilling and Blasting Underground:

A competent person is required to inspect the drilling area as well as the associated equipment, before any drilling operation can begin. To prevent exposure of employees to electric shocks, it must be ensured that all blasting wires are kept clear of electrical lines, pines, rails, and other conductive material.

Before any drilling is performed on the ground, suitable cable locating devices should be used aided by cable plans of the particular area for accuracy. It is to ensure that electrical wires do not exist underneath the proposed drilling area.

Requirements for Gassy Work Area:

Gassy operations are defined by OSHA as work areas with 10 percent or more of the lower explosive limit for methane and other flammable gasses measured at 12 inches from particular sections of the work space for three consecutive days.

A competent person is required to monitor the air for oxygen and flammable gas. A manual flammable gas monitor, and a manual electrical shut down control is to be present near the heading for the gas monitor. Upon an alert that an underground area is affected, the electrical shut down will prevent workers from going into the affected work area.

Many incidents occur from cables that have been damaged but were either not reported to the service provider or were not repaired. There is potential of high-voltage cables that are filled with oil to ignite and create an explosion or fire.

And while telecommunications cables are also another source of workplace hazards, they are not as severe, but must be kept in check all the same. In the case of an accident, a breakdown in telecommunication cables can isolate the excavation site to important emergency services such as fire brigade and ambulance. So it is imperative that any lapses in communication with the world outside/above are fixed as soon as possible.

Employers must take it upon themselves as an absolutely necessity to train employees through electrical safety course before deploying them to work in hazardous environments.

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