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 energy
Workers 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.
Some of the incidents that can cause these injuries include the following:
- 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.
Workers who face these risks regularly include electricians and laborers and most of them sustain injuries that can take weeks to heal if at all.
How to control hazardous energy
The 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.
In addition, once equipment has been de-energized, the stored energy has to be released for safety purposes. Sources of this energy include flywheels, coiled springs, capacitors as well as air/gas/chemical systems. Failure to do so can result in a dangerous buildup which can lead to serious accidents.
Safe practices that can help workers release that pent-energy safely include:
- 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.
Hazardous sources of energy are always near workers in industrial settings. Turning off heavy machinery or equipment is not enough to eliminate electrocutions or other hazards. Those who are responsible for maintenance and upkeep should be trained to remain safe during work.
NFPA 70E: Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace 2017-18
Hazardous energy can be dangerous in untrained hands. Check out the NFPA 70E: Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace 2017-18 training program by 360training.com , which is designed to help students manage and it safely during operations. It also covers safety standards for electrical safety all workers should be aware of as well as OSHA regulations.
Students also get to review NFPA 70E standards and the way they can ensure their safety and their colleagues’ safety in the workplace. The course can be taken online whenever you want so there is no need to change your shift timings for it.
Sign up today and remain safe from injuries. Safety is everyone’s business.