What Are the Harmful Effects of Hazardous Energy?
Hazardous energy is a form of energy that builds up to levels that can be dangerous to the workers around it. This may come from hydraulic, pneumatic, thermal, chemical, mechanical and electrical energy sources. Aside from that, some energized equipment can also prove hazardous during operation and maintenance. Unpredictable startup of machinery that should be de-energized before repairs is one such incident which can generate enough energy to cause fatal accidents.
Harmful effects of hazardous energyWorkers susceptible to harm from this energy include those who work on heavy machinery and equipment. If they come in contact with uncontrolled energy the injuries they sustain may paralyze them or worse. Common injuries include electrocutions, cuts, lacerations, crushing, burning among others that heavy machinery can cause.
- A conveyor system jams suddenly crushing the worker working inside
- Wiring in factory equipment short circuits leading to electrocution
- A steam valve turns on unexpectedly and burns workers who are doing maintenance work on pipes.
How to control hazardous energyThe good news is that hazardous energy can be controlled with proper Lockout/Tagout procedures as per OSHA safety standards. These are the procedures that should be implemented when machinery or heavy equipment is de-energized or disabled to prevent the release of uncontrolled energy. OSHA recognizes different types of hazardous energy in its standards and the LOTO specifications that each employer and worker should be aware of. It is the employer’s duty to ensure that workers have a safe work environment and are able to follow applicable safety procedures without faltering. This is possible through appropriate safety training that can increase their awareness of common industrial hazards among hazardous energy. This includes ensuring that:
- All workers are aware of the function and aim of energy control programs and have the skills needed to operate machinery safety, use it carefully and operate devices skillfully.
- Workers who are near energy control procedures or controls need to be aware of their purpose and use along with the need to ensure that they don’t restart machinery that is locked our tagged out.
- Authorized workers who are tasked with maintenance operations have to be aware of and recognize hazardous elements in the workplace. This includes the energy content and the means of isolating and controlling it to prevent serious injuries.
- Ensuring that all workers are retrained regularly to keep their skills sharp and are aware of new control methods.
- Release tension springs
- Ensuring that all moving parts of the machinery come to a full stop
- Grounding capacitors to discharge them
- Release pressure from pressurized fluids till it reaches safe levels.