'Overlooked' Problem of Hazardous Energy Addressed by ASSP

25 Feb, 2020 Nancy Grover


Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – “Of the many risks and hazards in construction and demolition work, hazardous energy is one that often gets overlooked,” says the American Society of Safety Professionals. “Hazardous energy sources in these environments can be wide and varied, including electrical conductors, power tools, pipelines, conveyor belts and rotating shafts.” 

The ASSP is highlighting the problem of hazardous energy in the construction and demolition industries and providing guidance to prevent injuries.

Of the 21 percent of workplace fatalities that occurred in the construction sector in 2018, more than 8 percent were caused by electrocution, according to the ASSP.

OSHA defines ‘hazardous energy’ as energy sources “including electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal, or other sources in machines and equipment …”. The unexpected startup or release of stored energy during servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment can cause serious injury or death to workers, from electrocution, burns, crushing, cutting, lacerating, amputating or fracturing body parts. Therefore, the hazardous energy must be properly controlled.

OSHA cites several examples of injuries resulting from uncontrolled hazardous energy:

  • A steam valve is automatically turned on burning workers who are repairing a downstream connection in the piping.
  • A jammed conveyor system suddenly releases, crushing a worker who is trying to clear the jam.
  • Internal wiring on a piece of factory equipment electrically shorts, shocking worker who is repairing the equipment.

“What’s different about these types of hazardous energy sources is that they present a different and special type of hazard that is particular to construction and demolition,” says Michael Serpe, chair of the ANSI/ASSP A10.44 subcommittee. “These energy sources are present in the work environment, but they may not be energy sources controlling the equipment or directly involved in the construction company’s work activities.”

ASSP offers the following recommendations to prevent injuries among workers involved in hazardous energy:

1.     Plan Ahead

“In many cases, the hazardous energy sources on construction and demolition sites are not directly related to the work being performed,” ASSP stated. “That’s why preplanning is crucial to identify any hazardous energy sources present at the site before work begins so that that they can be properly mitigated.”

Among the hazardous energy sources that may be present are overhead power lines or underground utilities near the worksite. “Concrete-encased electrical duct banks can be struck by construction excavation activities and may also be located within buildings scheduled for demolition,” the organization advises. 

2.     Establish Control Procedures

 “The next big element is establishing energy control procedures for the construction machines and equipment that will be used for the project,” Serpe explains. “This includes having locks, tags and specific lockout hardware needed to correctly deenergize equipment. Those should be obtained during the planning phase.” 

If temporary power is used in and around the job site, the use of ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) is encouraged as they will cut power if the energized equipment connected to it short circuits. Even though GFCIs are not allowed to be used for energy isolation, “they can supplement recognized energy control procedures, such as locking out circuit breakers and safely removing fuses,” Serpe said.

"The recently updated ANSI/ASSP A10.44-2020 standard provides a framework for the sequential steps of hazardous energy isolation and can aid construction companies in developing their own energy control procedures," ASSP notes.

3.     Educate  Workers

Workers must understand the risks associates with energy hazards and how to perform their jobs safely. “Construction employees may not recognize the dangers of electrocution, which can occur if their bodies, equipment, tools, work materials or vehicles come near an overhead power line,” says Serpe. “Workers involved with equipment should be trained to recognize the energy types in the equipment, the magnitude of that energy, and the means and methods that must be used to control that energy.”

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    About The Author

    • Nancy Grover

      Nancy Grover is a freelance writer having recently retired as the Director, Media Services for WorkersCompensation.com. She comes to our company with more than 35 years as a broadcast journalist and communications consultant. Grover’s specialties include insurance, workers’ compensation, financial services, substance abuse, healthcare and disability. For 12 years she served as the Program Chair of the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. A journalism/speech graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, Grover also holds an MBA from Palm Beach Atlantic University.

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