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Qualified Electrical Worker – Do You Have Any?

- February 19, 2018 by Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM (View all posts by Leslie)

A few months ago, my colleague wrote a blog about using electrical multimeters. It got me thinking about qualified electrical workers. According to OSHA, employees must be trained as qualified electrical workers if they are potentially exposed to energized electrical over 50-V. This is not that unusual for a maintenance person. Potential exposure occurs when an employee uses an electrical testing meter to verify that electrical power has been properly shut down. They are potentially exposed to electricity until they have verified that power was in fact successfully shut down. You may think this is redundant because if they followed the procedure then of course, the power would be shut down but its not that simple.

Consider the example of crossing the street. If you are crossing at a designated cross walk with a pedestrian traffic signal, you are crossing the street by following the “proper procedure.” But, when the walk signal comes on, no one blindly walks into the intersection. Everyone looks both ways before crossing the street. According to the sign, you should be safe to cross, so why take the time to pause and look both ways? We do so because we need to verify that traffic did in fact stop. Let me compare it for you in more detail.

Creating an electrically safe work condition Crossing the street
Use the written procedure to find the proper isolation point Walk to the designated cross walk area
Follow procedures Wait for walk signal
Wear proper PPE while opening panel for testing Stand on the curb while waiting to cross
Wearing the needed PPE, use a test meter to verify de-energization Look both ways before crossing
Proceed or wait depending on outcome Proceed or wait depending on outcome

In testing the electricity with the meter, we are “looking both ways” before putting ourselves in potential danger.

According to OSHA,
Qualified persons (i.e. those permitted to work on or near exposed energized parts) shall, at a minimum, be trained in and familiar with the following:
The skills and techniques necessary to distinguish exposed live parts from other parts of electric equipment.
The skills and techniques necessary to determine the nominal voltage of exposed live parts, and
The clearance distances specified in 1910.333(c) and the corresponding voltages to which the qualified person will be exposed.

Take a walk out to your maintenance area. Is there an electrical multimeter? If so, you need to look at who uses it and why. Do they have training to the level of a qualified electrical worker? Do they know how to use it safely? Do they understand the risks of using one? I recommend reviewing the online version of NFPA 70E to get an in-depth understanding of what is needed to perform energized electrical work. You can access it through the link below.

For more information on electrical hazards, please review our other blogs or reach out to your risk management consultant.

NFPA Free Access Widget