The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited an air filter manufacturer in the South with several safety violations after inspecting its manufacturing facility. The hazards at issue involved exposing workers to shocks and burns from unused openings in electrical boxes and failing to use electrical equipment in the way the manufacturer directs in its guidelines.
For this the manufacturer was penalized with fines of $39,000. It was cited for similar violations in 2009 and so the violations this year were considered repeat violations and were more serious.
The serious safety violations included the manufacturing employer’s failure to provide strain relief for the strip feeder, ensure abrasion protection on electrical wires, and provide temp workers with lockout training. Additionally, workers were exposed to serious shock and burn hazards from live wiring. OSHA found the employer knew or should have known about this. There was also what is called an “other-than-serious” violation that involved failing to inspect the energy control procedures.
Massachusetts’s manufacturers must be careful about electrical hazards in the workplace. Working with electricity is dangerous for a number of different workers including engineers, electricians and other professionals. OSHA has specific standards to protect employees against electric shock, electrocution, or fires in different types of workplaces.
There are a number of things OSHA recommends if you work around electricity. For example, the main circuit breaker must be off and locked out before you start a generator. Failure to keep it off may lead to inadvertent energization of power lines, potentially leading to the electrocution of utility line workers. Generators should be turned off and permitted to cool before refueling. Similarly, it is important to assume power lines are energized and stay 10 feet away. Power lines that are buried or are overhead carry very high voltage and the risk of fatal electrocution.
If you work around extension cords, it is important to be aware of exposed wire. You don’t want to contact electrical current. It is important not to modify an extension cord or use it incorrectly. When removing a cord from a socket, pull on the plug, not the cord. If you using a portable electrical power tool, you should be careful not to stand someplace wet or expose the tool to anything wet.
Construction workers should be careful about short-circuits and exposed wires. Tools and equipment should be double insulated. Workers should visually inspect electrical equipment before handling it for frayed cords, cracked tool casings or other indications that the equipment might not be safe. In instances where the power supply to electrical equipment is not grounded or a path has been broken, a current can move through a worker’s body leading to burns or death. Extreme conditions or rough handling can change electrical equipment into a hazard even where proper grounding exists.
The human body conducts electricity well. Electrical currents can injure or kill workers by causing a cardiac arrest, destroying muscle, nerve or tissue, and through thermal burns. Symptoms of injury include unconsciousness, heart attack, headache, problems with swallowing, vision or hearing, muscle spasms, breathing problems, seizures and skin burns. If an electric shock injures a co-worker, be careful not to touch a live wire. It may not be enough to turn off an appliance. You may also need to turn off the circuit breaker and use a non-conducting tool, like a broom or doormat, to push the injured person away from the source of the current.
If you are hurt at work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. An experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney can evaluate whether you have a sound claim and fight to make sure that your employer and its insurer follow the rules. Contact us by calling 800-367-0871 or using our online contact form.