Workers are exposed to a variety of power plant hazards if the right preventative steps are not taken. Unsurprisingly, the biggest concern is injuries related to electrical hazards. In the US, an average of 133 workers suffer fatal injuries from contact with power lines every year. While the common conception may be that electrocution is the biggest concern, the majority of electrical injuries in power plants are actually burns related to ‘arc flashes’. They are incredibly dangerous because of the massive currents created in power plants.
Some of the most common power plant hazards are electrical shocks and burns, boiler fires and explosions, and contact with hazardous chemicals. Keeping your workers safe is a constant challenge. A mistake in a power plant can easily be fatal. The National Safety Council estimates that an electrocution death costs an employer approximately $1 million. No amount of money can cover the costs of a family’s grief. It is both the employer’s and worker’s responsibility to ensure that a workplace is as safe as possible.
The best step you can take to keep your workers safe from power plant hazards is to implement the hierarchy of controls that are designed to ensure a safe workplace. These controls are listed in order of effectiveness and these should form the basis of your workplace safety strategy.
Hierarchy of Controls for Power Plant Hazards
- Elimination – Physically removing the hazard – this is the most effective hazard control. Consider moving a power control station from a raised platform to ground level to remove the risk of falling.
- Substitution – This is the second most effective hazard control and involves replacing something that produces a hazard (similar to elimination) with something that does not produce a hazard.
- Engineering Controls – These do not eliminate power plant hazards, but rather isolate people from hazards by employing a physical barrier that protects workers from a hazard. Examples include machine guards, railings, or locked-out machines.
- Awareness – Provide information to enable workers to make safe decisions that lead to more efficient processes. Provide clear and obvious signage, specific machine training, and other education.
- Administrative Controls – Administrative controls change the way people work. You can implement specific policies to limit employee exposure to power plant hazards.
- Personal Protective Equipment – PPE is the least effective means of controlling power plant hazards because of the potential for damage or misuse to make it ineffective. Arc-rated clothing and fall harnesses should be used in power plants depending on a worker’s role.
Contractors need to receive proper training to work in power plants. This should be done when they are onboarded so that they are aware of power plant hazards, and how to avoid them, before they step foot on-site. Safety orientations should be site-specific and tailored to a worker’s role. An online contractor management system allows you to conduct orientations for workers based across multiple sites, while keeping a uniform quality standard.
Take a look at our Infographic for a detailed and visual representation of the electrical hazards at power plants and what steps you and your workers should take to ensure safety on-site.