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Controlling Electrical Hazards - Health & Safety

Introduction to OSHA -
Occupational Safety and Health Act

In general, OSHA's electrical standards are based on the National Fire Protection Associations' Standard NFPA 70E, Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces, and in turn, from the National Electrical Code (NEC).

OSHA also has electrical standards for construction and maritime, but recommends that employers in these industries follow the general industry electrical standards whenever possible for hazards that are not addressed by their industry-specific standards.

OSHA's electrical standards address concerns that electricity has long been recognized as a serious workplace hazard, exposing employees to such dangers as electric shock, electrocution, burns, fires, and explosions. In 1992, for example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 6,210 work-related deaths occurred in private sector workplaces employing 11 workers or more. Six percent of the fatalities, or around 347 deaths, were the direct result of electrocutions at work. What makes these statistics more tragic is that, for the most part, these fatalities could have been easily avoided.

OSHA'S electrical standards help minimize these potential hazards by specifying safety aspects in the design and use of electrical equipment and systems. The standards cover only those parts of any electrical system that an employee would normally use or contact. For example, the exposed and/or operating elements of an electrical installation - lighting, equipment, motors, machines, appliances, switches, controls, and enclosures - must be constructed and installed so as to minimize workplace electrical dangers.

For employers and employees in the 25 states operating OSHA's approved workplace safety and health plans,3 their states may be enforcing standards and other procedures that while "at least effective" federal standards are not always identical to federal requirements.

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