Check List for Eliminating Electrical Fire Hazards
Industrial Fire Safety
In promoting fire prevention and protection with our employers, whether industrial or municipal, we all realize the need to adequately prepare, document and sell our point under discussion. If we do not, then we can lose a badly needed fire safety improvement. We hope to help you sell electrical fire safety with the information that follows.
Fire losses from electrical causes, according to the NFPA estimated loss report for 1971, have taken first place after many years of being second, a dubious honor. Of the 144,280 occurrences, the major portion can be attributed to wiring and general equipment, and the balance to power-consuming devices and motors. Various other statistical reports indicate that industrial fire losses run from a low of 9 percent to a high of 22 percent of the total loss dollar, an amazing percentage whichever figure you look at. The loss of life is estimated at 1048, an appalling figure.
In reviewing the OSHA list of 25 most frequently cited violations, we found that four of them were electrical. The involved grounding, Section 1910:314; outlet, switch, and junction boxes, Section 1910:315; general electrical, Section 1910:310; and flexible cords and cables, Section 1910:316.
Ways to reduce incidents: The following recommendations require study and action if fires and the loss of life are to be reduced:
- Installations of and repairs to electrical systems and power-consuming devices, follow the National Electrical Code, NFPA No. 70, which is a part of OSHA, Sections 1910:308-9-10, etc.
- Use only licensed electricians qualified to do the job. If this is not possible, have the work inspected and accepted by licensed electricians.
- Machine and motor installations must follow manufacturers’ recommendations and wiring diagrams.
- Survey entire major distribution circuits, controls and transformers and make a line drawing showing such information clearly marked. Post drawings in prominent locations and supply copies to your municipal fire department and your own fire brigade. This drawing can be of tremendous value in an emergency situation.
- Be positive that distribution systems to plant motors can supply the proper voltage and amperage to allow efficient operation of production machinery and prevent motor burnouts.
- Flexible cords to portable devices, such as floor lights, fans, office machines and production assists, must be single lengths of unspliced cord as now required under OSHA. It is expected that this rule will be amended to allow splicing cords if it is done with soldered connections properly protected by insulation.
- All electrical systems, including handheld work tools, must be properly grounded with three-wire connections or plugs to a tested and adequate plant ground system. The code excludes small office machines and double-insulated portable tools. This is a major recommendation for life safety as a large portion of all electrical deaths stem from the lack of adequate grounds.
The following are a list of body reactions to various amperes: 1/2 to 2 milliamperes, some sensation (a tingle); 2 to 10 milliamperes, muscular contraction, which could extend length of exposure time; 5 to 25 milliamperes, painful shock and inability to let go; 50 to 200 milliamperes, heart convulsions. At 100-plus milliamperes, paralysis of breathing may occur with heart convulsions, which could lead to death, depending on conditions and the health of the person exposed.
- Underground cables should be protected by cable warning tapes buried on top of the cables and warning posts installed at intervals along the line. These are needed as warnings, especially to construction crews digging in cable areas.
- All overhead cables should have guards to prevent physical damage and signs to warn workers of the danger overhead.
- Provide, according to the code, permanent enclosures or fencing, including warning signs, for electrical distribution systems.
- Schedule periodic inspections of all electrical systems and devices and provide prompt maintenance to assure continued proper and safe installations and equipment.
- When buying appliances, tools, office machines, cords, plugs and other electrical components, be sure they have a UL label attached to parts, not just the cord or device alone.
- If droplights are still in use in storage areas, provide metal lamp guards for them to prevent the bulbs from accidentally contacting combustible stocks.
- As a part of your fire brigade training, include sessions on electrical safety and procedures to be followed in an emergency.
Survey your premises and become familiar with your electrical systems and power devices. Make up your own list of hazards and recommendations. Maintain and respect this valuable source of energy and electricity will serve you well.