Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Who is Responsible for Electrical Safety at Work?

The question is often asked, “Who is responsible for my safety?” The cliché answer is “you”. A peak at the NFPA 70E makes things just a little clearer. Ultimately you are responsible for using the safe work practices presented to you by your employer. But, the employer is responsible for establishing the safe work practices and training the employees. In the end you become the best judge of your own safety during a work task. If you have been through your employer’s training you are considered qualified and you are the expert. If a task seems unsafe, speak up. Often a simple change can make the task safer and it can still be completed.

But what if you are a contractor on a customer’s site? Then best practice calls for you to coordinate with the owner or onsite employer to make sure your safety practices are aligned with the host. The host will be responsible for making sure you understand the known hazards. But never forget there will be unknown hazards. You are the expert and you, as a contractor, are responsible for making sure the host is aware of any unexpected or newly found hazards. In the end it is a cooperative effort.

What if something goes wrong? The NFPA 70E addresses that issue as well. If the host or onsite employer sees a safety violation they are responsible to bring it to the attention of the contractor. Of course the level of the hazard dictates the urgency of the response, but all violations should be reported to the contractor quickly. What does the contractor have to do? The contractor or guest must immediately correct the situation and inform the host of the actions taken. In addition the contractor must inform the host of a plan to prevent the violation from happening again.

While these actions sound a little tough, they really aren’t any tougher than the results of what could happen in an accident. It is important that we take time to communicate. It is both your goal and your employer’s goal to keep you safe. Believe it or not, you are your employer’s most valuable asset. Nothing exceeds the value of judgmental calls by a human. That judgment is one of the reasons people say you are responsible for safety. Take time, look the job over, and make sure you are aware of the hazards present and identify any new hazards that your expertise identifies.

Reference: NFPA 70E 110.5 Relationship with Contractors (Outside Service Personnel, etc.)