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PROPERTY & CASUALTY
MAY 21, 2019
How Will IoT Change Electrical Safety?
Workers are exposed to numerous potential electrical hazards on a daily basis. Most commonly, electrical installation, repairs, testing of fixtures and equipment, inspection and maintenance activities put workers at risk. Of these workers, engineers, electricians and overhead line workers are most commonly exposed to these hazards — thus they are most likely to experience electrocution if proper precautions are not followed.
What if new technology, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), could protect the most at-risk individuals?
Current standards for electrical safety
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace (70E), provides requirements for employers to use when establishing an electrical safety program, work policies and procedures. Informative Annex Q addresses human performance and workplace safety, and Informative Annex O covers safety-related design requirements. In these sections, tools and methods for phasing out human error in equipment and processes are mentioned.
Using IoT to keep workers safe
One of the ways to phase out human error and improve safety is through the use of IoT. IoT connects equipment and people in a facility or on a jobsite, through a local network. It can be utilized to identify hazards — such as electricity shortages or machine breakdown, prior to an actual occurrence. This is incredibly beneficial for at-risk workers because it prevents them from being exposed to dangerous situations.
In a post-breakdown situation, it’s more difficult to take a proactive approach to safety. IoT reduces risks because of its proactive safety capabilities. For instance, if the network senses a potential malfunction from a piece of electric machinery, supervisors will be notified. The problem can be resolved before it becomes an immediate, lost-time issue. IoT also allows electrical workers to safely turn off all circuits before beginning work — and know for certain they aren’t in contact with “hot” wires.
Other ways to protect workers
Ensuring the presence of these additional controls will cut down on exposure to electrical hazards, and further protect employees and projects.
Close all openings (junction boxes, pull boxes and fittings) with approved covers
Maintain a minimum of ten-foot clearance of all equipment from 50kV or less— add four inches for every kV over 50kV
Use electrical protective devices
Look for evidence of underground utilities
Use three-prong plugs
Avoid wet conditions
Only use extension cords temporarily and when necessary
Use double-insulated tools
Check that no obvious electrical hazards are present (i.e. frayed wires, warm equipment)
Develop and adhere to a lockout and tagout procedure
Use personal protective equipment (proper foot protection, rubber insulated clothing, etc.)
Electrical parts should be isolated through guards, barriers or replacement covers
All power tools should have a three-wire cord with ground and should either be plugged into a grounded receptacle, double insulated or powered by a low-voltage insulation transformer
For more information on how to protect your employees from electrical hazards, contact your