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IMPROVING WORKPLACE ELECTRICAL SAFETY THROUGH

SELF-ASSESSMENT
Copyright Material IEEE
Paper No. ESW2013-24
Brett C. Brenner
President
Electrical Safety Foundation International
2900 Crystal Drive, Suite 500
Arlington, VA 22202
USA
brett.brenner@esfi.org

Abstract An effective electrical safety program is the key to


reducing electrical injuries in the workplace. The Electrical
Safety Foundation International (ESFI) has developed a new
workplace safety awareness program to assist safety
professionals and facility managers with the development or
improvement of electrical safety programs. Encouraging a
proactive approach to electrical safety, the How Do You Know?
program features high-quality video modules that reinforce the
importance of electrical safety programs and compliance with
standards and regulations, while also demonstrating the
personal impact workplace electrical incidents can have on an
organization and its employees.
The How Do You Know? program also includes an online
assessment tool that promotes self-evaluation as a method for
improving workplace electrical safety. The ESFI Electrical
Safety Self-Assessment guides users though a series of
questions that help them review and analyze electrical safety
practices related to facilities, personnel and procedures. Once
the assessment is complete, users are provided with a
summary of areas that have been identified for further
examination or improvement.
Index Terms electrical safety audit, electrical safety
program, Electrical Safety Foundation International, ESFI,
electrical injuries, electrical fatalities.
I.

INTRODUCTION

Electricity has become an integral part of our modern lives


both at home and in the workplace, yet it remains uniquely
unforgiving if not used safely. Each year, electrical fires disrupt
too many lives and too many families mourn the loss of a loved
one who is fatally injured by electricity on the job. The mission
of the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) is to
advocate electrical safety in the home and in the workplace in
order to reduce electrically-related fatalities, injuries and
property loss.
ESFI was founded in 1994 as a collaborative effort by the
National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), the U.S.
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and
Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Over the years, ESFI has
become highly regarded by industry, media and consumer
safety partners alike by constantly reinvigorating the way
electrical safety is addressed. ESFI promotes electrical safety
in the workplace by providing dynamic educational and
awareness materials to help employers ensure a safe working

978-1-4673-3039-8/13/$31.00 2013 IEEE

environment for their employees. ESFIs workplace safety


awareness programs are built on the principle that compliance
with established codes and standards through the
implementation of a comprehensive, effective electrical safety
program is the key to eliminating workplace electrical injuries
and fatalities.
II.
A.

IMPROVING WORKPLACE ELECTRICAL SAFETY

The Situation: Workplace Electrical Injuries and Fatalities

Every year in the United States, workplace electrical


incidents result in nearly 300 deaths and more than 3,500
injuries. Although not the leading cause of workplace fatalities,
electrical incidents are disproportionately fatal. For every
thirteen workplace electrical injuries, a worker dies [1].
ESFI distills and analyzes annual statistical data on
occupational electrical injuries and fatalities in order to better
focus the Foundations workplace safety awareness efforts.
The statistical analysis builds upon earlier work by the National
Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), providing
updated information on electrical incidents as it becomes
available. The most recent data, covering the 20-year period
from 1992-2010, exhibits some interesting trends.
Since 1992, fatal electrical injuries have declined by more
than 50% on an annual basis, and that trend has accelerated
since 2006. For the 15-year period from 1992-2006, there was
a 25% decline in annual electrical fatalities, but electrical
fatalities declined by one-third in just five years from 20062010. (See Fig. 1) Even though the number of fatal accidents
declined by 50%, the relative percentage contribution of the
three largest accident categories ("Contact with Overhead
Power Lines," "Contact with Wiring, Transformers, or Other
Electrical Components," and "Contact with Electric Current of
Machine, Tool, Appliance, or Light Fixture") remained stable [2].
(See Fig. 2)

B.

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

Nonfatal electrical injuries have shown an even more


dramatic improvement. In 2010, nonfatal electrical injuries
were down by more than 60% from their 1992 level. The two
largest categories of nonfatal electrical injury are Contact with
electric current of a machine, tool, appliance, or light fixture
and Contact with wiring, transformers, or other electrical
components. The relative contribution of these two categories
has remained relatively unchanged despite the 60% decline in
total nonfatal electrical accidents [2]. (See Fig. 3)

Fig. 3

While the slowdown in economic activity is recent years has


most likely contributed to the sharper declines in electrical
accidents since 2006, the advancement of NFPA 70E as an
important electrical safety standard is surely a component of
the overall reduction of occupational electrical incidents. Real
improvement in overall workplace electrical safety can be
sustained through the increased use of the techniques and
methods found in NFPA 70E and through training targeted at
people in high-risk occupations and industries [2]. Electrical
safety programs are an important component for integrating the
safe electrical practices outlined in NFPA 70E into everyday
workplace procedures for all employees.

Electrical Safety Auditing/Assessment

An electrical safety program can be a powerful tool for


protecting employees from workplace electrical incidents and
injuries. While workplaces may have an established electrical
safety program, the programs are often out-of-date or may not
be referenced when developing new procedures or planning
jobs. In order to be effective, the electrical safety program must
be more than just pages in a binder.
The program
requirements must be woven into the very culture of the
workplace.
It is also crucial that the program includes
provisions for regular evaluation of program effectiveness and
the incorporation of necessary improvements [3]. NFPA 70E
supports this concept by specifying that an electrical safety
program audit be performed at least every three years [4].
While the term audit may have a negative connotation for
many, an electrical safety audit is one of the most important
electrical safety management tools [5].
Auditing is a means to assess overall electrical safety
performance versus established standards and to identify areas
for continued improvement [4].
Regular electrical safety
program audits limit the erosion of safety practices that can
occur over time as employees become complacent or attempt
to push safety boundaries [5]. Audits also ensure that the latest
safety technologies, code requirements, and advanced safety
practices can be incorporated into the electrical safety program
on a regular basis. As an additional benefit, auditing provides a
means of systematically reporting program performance. The
audit results can also be used to demonstrate the need for
additional expenses or resources related to the electrical safety
program.
Like electrical safety programs, electrical safety audits must
be comprehensive in nature to be effective. Comprehensive
audits provide for the evaluation of multiple program areas,
including both the physical plant/equipment and the human
element.
Multi-faceted audits should address managing
systems, equipment and facilities, and people. An evaluation of
managing systems examines documented procedures and
controls, as well as the overall safety culture created by these
measures. When evaluating equipment and facilities, the audit
protocol should include examination of equipment
specifications and installations versus established guidelines,
as well as maintenance procedures and records. Evaluation of
the human element, which should utilize both employee
interviews and onsite observation of work practices, provides
insight into the knowledge, skills, and actual work behavior of
employees [5].
Management acceptance and participation are crucial to the
success of electrical safety programs and program audits, yet it
can be difficult to communicate their significance up the
organizational ladder. In addition to the negative connotation
that the term auditing may have for some managers, there
may be a general lack of understanding about the process or
even a lack of awareness about the critical role electrical safety
plays in the success of any business. Safety managers and
others responsible for the day-to-day safety of employees must
learn to develop and effectively communicate the business
case for electrical safety program auditing.
ESFI has
developed a new program to help promote electrical safety
auditing as a powerful tool for protecting employees from
workplace electrical incidents, injuries and fatalities, thereby
providing tremendous benefit to an organizations bottom line.

C.

How Do You Know?


Awareness Program

Workplace

Electrical

Safety

The purpose of ESFIs How Do You Know? program is to


raise awareness of and build value for the concept of electrical
safety auditing/assessment as an important method for
reducing workplace electrical injuries and fatalities. The
program is a tremendous tool for overcoming potential
obstacles to auditing, such as an ingrained, negative perception
that may exist, general lack of electrical safety awareness, or a
limited understanding of the potentially beneficial outcomes.
The How Do You Know? program outlines a three-step
process for improving awareness and provides tools to help
with each step.
1) Awareness: The high-quality How Do You Know? video
modules demonstrate how safe electrical practices are vital to
everyone in a business. The videos, which highlight the critical
importance of workplace electrical safety and introduce the
concept of electrical safety auditing/assessment as a method of
improving workplace safety, can be used to raise awareness at
every level of an organization, from line employees through
upper management.
2) Assessment: The Electrical Safety Self-Assessment (SelfAssessment)
is
an
easy-to-use
online
tool
(http://selfassessment/esfi.org) that provides a basic evaluation
of workplace electrical safety by prompting users to answer
simple questions related to their facilities, personnel and
procedures. Questions about facilities help with the evaluation
of company policies and systems for maintenance of
equipment and tools, repairs, testing, clearance limits, and safe
working conditions.
Personnel-related questions focus
attention on the actual work practices of employees, such as
proper use and care of personal protective equipment,
employee training and continuing education, and qualified
versus unqualified persons. Procedural questions examine the
established procedures for performing energized work, deenergizing and re-energizing, lockout/tagout, job planning,
performing arc flash hazard analysis, reporting safety concerns,
and record keeping. The Self-Assessment questionnaire varies
by user, as the questions presented are contingent upon the
answers provided earlier. Upon completion of the SelfAssessment, users are provided with a list of suggested areas
for improvement, as well as codes/standard references for each
identified item.
The Self-Assessment is intended to help raise awareness
about workplace electrical hazards and the importance of
following an effective electrical safety program. It is not,
however, a substitute for an independent, comprehensive
electrical safety audit or risk assessment. In addition to raising
awareness, the results provided by the Self-Assessment can
also be used as justification to move forward with a full audit or
other electrical safety improvements.
3) Improvement: In addition to code/standard references,
which are provided throughout the Self-Assessment, ESFI has
compiled an online library of safety resources to simplify the
process of finding the right tools to start making necessary
electrical safety improvements.
The Never Assume Safety Series, ESFIs most acclaimed
workplace safety program to-date, is a good place to get
started. Never Assume is based on NFPA 70E, addressing
the most critical workplace electrical safety issues covered by
the standard. Featured topics include: De-energize;
Lockout/Tagout; Test Before You Touch; Arc Flash Prevention;

Personal Protective Equipment; and Job Planning/Work


Permits.
D.

Additional ESFI Electrical Safety Resources

1) Consumer/Home Safety Resources: Electricity has


become such an integral part of our modern lives that we tend
to take it for granted, but using electricity safely remains vitally
important. Home electrical safety is even more critical today as
the electrical systems in many existing homes are becoming
outdated or may simply be insufficient for the increased
electricity demands of todays electrical appliances and
devices.
Simply understanding basic electrical safety principles and
adhering to safe practices can prevent many electrically-related
fatalities, injuries and fires in the home. ESFI has developed
resources to help educate consumers and the public about how
to recognize the warning signs of electrical hazards. ESFI also
advocates for the installation of new, advanced safety
technologies that offer enhanced protection for the home.
In recent years, ESFI has reevaluated the way electrical
safety awareness messages have historically been presented,
choosing to capitalize on the popularity of internet-based
communications by developing new computer-based resources
in addition to traditional print materials. Dynamic online tools
include virtual simulations, high-quality video public service
announcements, and interactive web-based activities.
2) Childrens Safety Resources: Curiosity is a natural part of
childhood learning, but it can be extremely dangerous when it
comes to electricity. ESFI is dedicated to reducing the number
of childhood injuries and deaths from electrically-related
accidents through education and awareness.
ESFI's elementary education programs have been designed
to satisfy the leading educational standards without the need for
additional resources. By integrating electricity and electrical
safety lessons, ESFI has created a one-stop resource for
teachers, educators, parents, and students. The lessons are
designed for use by all educators, regardless of their
proficiency in science concepts. They are also designed to be
relevant regardless of the socioeconomic status of student or
school.
Developed for a target audience of students in third through
fifth grade, ESFI elementary education resources currently
include four classroom toolkits, complete with teacher's guides
and student activity sheets, as well as the online Kids' Corner
(http://kids.esfi.org). The Kids' Corner is comprised of video
games and unique cartoon videos that reinforce the safety
concepts presented in the classroom materials in a fun,
entertaining environment.
All of ESFIs resources are available at no charge on the
Foundations website at www.electrical-safety.org.
III. CONCLUSIONS
An effective electrical safety program is the key to reducing
electrical incidents and injuries in the workplace. In order to
maintain effectiveness over time, the program must include
provisions for regular evaluation and the incorporation of
program improvements.
Electrical safety program audits,
which gauge the effectiveness of the program and the
adequacy of the program controls, are one of the most
important electrical safety management tools. Management

acceptance and participation are crucial to the success of


electrical safety programs and program audits, yet it can be
difficult to communicate the significance of electrical safety up
the organizational ladder.
ESFIs How Do You Know? program was developed to raise
awareness of and build value for the concept of electrical safety
auditing/assessment as an important method for reducing
workplace electrical injuries and fatalities. It is a tremendous
tool for overcoming potential obstacles to auditing, such as an
ingrained, negative perception that may exist, general lack of
electrical safety awareness, or a limited understanding of the
potential benefits.
IV. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
ESFI safety awareness programs and resources are made
possible by the support of industry stakeholders. Our many
supporters provide funding, technical expertise and resources
to assist us in our mission. We are particularly grateful for the
leadership and guidance provided by our Board of Directors
and the members of our Workplace Safety Committee.
V.
[1]
[2]
[3]
[4]

REFERENCES

Electrical Safety Foundation International, Workplace


Electrical Injury and Fatality Statistics, 2003-2010,
Rosslyn, VA: ESFI, February 2012.
Electrical Safety Foundation International, Electrical
Safety Then and Now, Rosslyn, VA: ESFI, February
2012.
Auditing is Key, Jamil, S.; Aeiker, J.; Crow, D., Industry
Applications Magazine, IEEE, Volume 16, Issue: 1,
Publication Year: 2010, Page(s) 47-56.
National Fire Protection Association, NFPA 70E:
Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, 2012
Edition, Quincy, MA: NFPA.

[5]

A Second Set of Eyes, Huddleston, R.L.; Crow, D.R.,


Industry Applications Magazine, IEEE, Volume 11, Issue:
3; Publication Year: 2005, Page(s) 63-68.

VI. VITA
Brett C. Brenner was named President of the Electrical
Safety Foundation International (ESFI) in October 2005. ESFI,
formerly the National Electrical Safety Foundation (NESF), is
North Americas only non-profit organization dedicated
exclusively to promoting electrical safety in the home,
workplace and school. ESFI is a 501(c)(3) organization funded
by the top international electrical manufacturers and testing
laboratories, electrical unions and associations, utilities, and
consumer groups. ESFI sponsors National Electrical Safety
Month each May, and engages in public education and media
relations programs throughout the year to help reduce property
damage, injuries and deaths related to electrical incidents.
Previously, Mr. Brenner served as Chief of Staff at the Gas
Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA), an international
trade association representing more than 200 manufacturers of
residential, commercial and industrial heating appliances,
equipment and components. Prior to his tenure at GAMA, Mr.
Brenner built a successful career in financial services as a
licensed stockbroker and, later, as a mortgage banker. Mr.
Brenner holds a bachelor of business administration degree in
marketing from Radford University.
Mr. Brenner is a board member of the Underwriters
Laboratories Consumer Advisory Council and the National Fire
Protection Association Educational Messages Advisory
Committee.