Importance of Training the work force on Electrical Safety


Electrical Power is used by all the staff members in a work force, at all levels.

To be safe, it is essential that every one understands the importance of basic electrical safety. For those who work on powered equipment, it is vital that they know more about electrical safety.

To achieve near zero electricity power related accidents in any organisation it is a must that layered, regular training and refresher sessions are conducted. Audit on how people comply to safety rules is also essential to measure the training effectiveness and attitudinal change brought about.

Here is a link to an article on the importance of training and audit on electrical safety.




Electrical Systems: The history of electrical safety

Hi all,

Making “Safety at work” a religion will help save many lives, will reduce accidents and injuries, improve individual productivity, business reputation, employee loyalty and the overall bottom line of any business.

Every aspect of work needs to be made safe, but one of the most hazardous and common place accident prone area is people working on electrical installations.

What is visible is generally comprehended and people become aware of the danger and take care. An arc flash is a hidden danger and can strike at will from any of the closed and secure switchgear cabinets.

I found this very infomative article on the history of electrical safety and the evolution of OSHA standards regarding the same in the Plant Services online magazine. Please click on the link to read.

Electrical Systems: The history of electrical safety.

Safety is everybody’s business. The Managers have the additional responsibility of ensuring that his team is fully aware of the safety requirements and adhere to all the regulations in letter and spirit. Thisis part of the team building exercises and training.


Cleaning Glazed Areas – The challenges

Hi all,

Two small disclaimers are necessary in the beginning itself:

  • all the opinions voiced in this Post are my own and not that of any organisation that I worked with or am currently working with.
  • Some of the descriptions of buildings and problems faced therein are mentioned in this post, without actually naming them or giving out their locations. If the readers find some matching buildings in their own imagination or experience, it is their own imagination.

Glazed facades / domes / atrium roofs

Glass has been a great building material for quite some time. The technology improvement in making plate glasses have brought in a large variety of glass in various hues, colours, sizes and shapes available to the architects and building engineers. What this has brought about is large glass facades, walls, doors, etc at times measuring a few acres of surface area in a building.

The artistic domes atop buildings and atrium roofs add style and glamour to buildings.

Glass has become an integral part of every building in view of meeting the “Day light harvesting” requirements, grand facades, reducing stored heat or cold as the case may be and other architectural interests.

Maintenance challenges

When compared to painted or other types of external wall coverings, glass offers a longer time line between maintenance cleaning and other work on them. The smooth glass surface is less likely to retain debris, dust and moisture compared to rougher painted surfaces and porous natural stone coverings. The use of a combination of glass and aluminium cladding for facades has caught on like wild-fire.

Not withstanding the above facts, glazed exteriors also require periodic maintenance – this is an inescapable fact.

Architects, building engineers and building / facility owners also need to be aware of the glazed area maintenance requirement at the building design stage itself. If the maintenance related provisions are made at the design stage, the implementation of periodic maintenance becomes easier and fool-proof. I am going to cover the challenges in glazed area maintenance in a series of case studies.

Case 1.  Small factory building with glazed facade

In this building the glazed area was basically for show purpose. The architects had not provided any means to do glass cleaning. The height was not much, but more than what was reachable even with the longest telescopic glass cleaning equipment. There were no accessible perches in between, to provide access. There were no anchor points provided on the flat terrace, to allow people to access from the top. The dusty external environment made the facade dirty very frequently. As the Facilities Management agency for this building, we suggested procurement of a scissor / boom lift for the facade cleaning purpose. the same equipment could be used for other purposes such as high mast light fitting maintenance, accessing the steam / chilled water / DM water pipes running on raised structures etc. It was a worthwhile investment wisely made by them.

Safety Factors in Using a Scissor / Boom Lift

Only a trained and authorised person should be allowed to drive and operate the scissor / boom lift. The driver may not necessarily go up with the lift while the cleaning person is on task. The driver needs to be around to assist in changing the height of the boom, moving it to the sides etc. These operations / controls of the boom bucket should be with the driver alone.

The people undertaking the cleaning should wear all essential PPE such as safety helmet, nose mask and eye protection (in case of flying dirt and debris) and a full body safety harness that is anchored to the boom bucket anchoring points.

Scissor / Boom lifts should be parked in more or less level ground, before the people are lifted up. Positive additional support using hydraulic jacks should also be applied.

Case 2.  Very well-known education institution with a large academic centre with a deep atrium and tall central structure

The architects had chosen natural stone for covering the external walls. The stone colour would not show much of the dirt that settled on its rough surface. The central tower was totally air-conditioned, hence had sealed windows. There was no way to access the window panes from the outside since it was too tall to reach from the atrium. Atrium was accessible only through staircases, thus ruling out a boom lift or other types of vehicles entering there and being used for access. Yes, we could have lowered a vehicle in using a heavy-duty crane, but the vehicle would have been constrained to remain within that area and would have been underutilised.

There were no anchor points provided on the terrace. The terrace layout and structure were not amenable to lay a trolley for a davit and cradle arrangement to move around the periphery. The management was not very keen on making a big capital expenditure for the facade cleaning equipment also, since it was not budgeted for in the initial plan.

Yes, spider man technique using improvised anchor points could have been used.

I am not aware as to how they finally managed, since I left the facility for other new projects and at a later date my company stopped working in that facility too.

Case 3.  A Tech Giant with a large office space completely covered with glass all around

In this case every thing was provided for. A clean rectangular foot print for the highrise building allowed clean runways for the davit to run on the terrace and enough space to lower the cradle at all positions. Good quality, known brand of cradle mechanism was installed and operated as well.

Safety Factors in Using Cradle Mechanism

The people using the cradle mechanism are to be trained, tested and authorised for using the same. Periodic refresher training and testing are also required. “Train the trainer” route also could be taken on the long run to train a couple of internal trainers, thus reducing the recurring training cost.

All essential PPE should be issued and used by the people assigned to the cradle work.

Work permit should be issued after ascertaining the safety aspects and hazards analysis. The wind speed should be a maximum of moderate levels only – otherwise too much of swinging of the cradle could lead to accidents, banging onto the building facade, damage to the facade including glass etc.

Review of load test certificates, ropes and other load bearing members of the cradle arrangement should be done before attempting to operate. All periodic statutory tests and certification are to be current before starting operations.

The building owner and users should be briefed about the facade cleaning work plan.

Necessary barricades for risky areas, security personnel posted at tactical positions to guide other users and full supervision of the work are essential to ensure total safety.

Case 4. An automobile manufacturing plant with a network of long interconnected production bays.

The designer had provided for “Northlight” glazed areas in each bay. The roofs were slanting type, with sheer falls at the northlight area. All the glass panes were sealed to their frames to avoid ingress of water during rain. The glazed areas were not accessible from the ground due to height and other structures blocking the path for boom lifts. The only access was from the roof. Climbing on the roof itself was a hazardous exercise, due to the complex structures and the slope.

Representative Northlight roof structureJust to help in visualising the problem, a representative drawing of the bare structure is given here.

The cleaning from inside was comparatively easier since the cleaning crew could climb on the internal structure and reach the glazed area.

Much thought was given and ideas were discussed before reaching the ultimate decision on how to safely work on this job. A steel rope was anchored to both ends of each bay and tightened as far as possible. These ropes were further anchored to some points on the lower side of the sloping roof, so as to keep the rope as taut as possible. The work platform was hung on to the rope with a pulley arrangement to lower and hoist. People working from the platform were anchored to the rope using extension bits and the full body harnesses.

Getting the “Work permit” each day was a mammoth task since the Company management wanted a zero accident record. We managed the same without any mishaps barring minor abrasions to a couple of people.

Tail Piece

Imagine the team that does facade cleaning on the World’s tallest tower “Burj Dubai” and other such buildings!

The idea behind this blog entry is to get the regular readers thinking on the right lines from the building design stage till the regular maintenance.

Comments and suggestions are welcome. Thanks in advance!


Safety Related to Confined Spaces Entry – OSHA Link

Hi all,

You all must have gone through my earlier posts on the subject of confined spaces entry,

Here is a link to an OSHA online document, “Permit-required Confined Spaces” iven below:

This will help to amplify whatever was discussed in the earlier three posts.



Safety Matters, While Working in Confined Spaces Part 3

This article has been written out of personal and institutional experiences and should not be taken as a formal guideline for working in confined spaces. Please refer to relevant safety manuals before undertaking such work.

This is the third and final part of this series.

Part 1 is an introduction to “Confined Spaces”.

Part 2 contains thoughts on “Testing the atmosphere within confined spaces”, “Isolating the confined spaces”, “Other likely hazards within confined spaces”, “Personal protection gear”, “Support team” and “Training” aspects.

A link to the check list to ascertain safety for entering confined spaces is given below. Please go through. You are welcome to copy, download and use the same if you want to.

Confined Space Entry Safety Checklist

“Work Safe, Be Safe, Live Safe…….Live and Let Live”

Safety Matters, While Working in Confined Spaces Part 2

This article has been written out of personal and institutional experiences and should not be taken as a formal guideline for working in confined spaces. Please refer to relevant safety manuals before undertaking such work.

This is the second part of this series. Part 1 is an introduction to “Confined Spaces”.

Testing the Atmosphere

Never trust your senses to determine the presence or absence of gases in a confined space. Some of the toxic gases and vapours are colourless and odourless, hence you can neither see or smell them. You cannot determine the level of Oxygen present also by your nose.

The prevalent atmosphere should be tested using properly calibrated instruments / miner’s safety lamp etc before “Safe to work Certificates” are issued.

  • Some of the gases or vapours are heavier than air and tend to settle to the bottom of a confined space – Example, Hydrogen Sulphide or Steam which do not sustain life.
  • Some for the gases are lighter than air and will rise to the top of a confined space – Example, Methane, which does not sustain life.
  • Some of the gases may have the same density as air and will occupy the rest of the space – Example, Carbon Monoxide which does not sustain life.

It is essential that all the areas in a confined space are tested for presence of gases and absence of Oxygen. In both the cases, the area is to be ventilated using external air sources (Supply or Exhaust or Supply and Exhaust). The exhaust gases should be let out to well ventilated spaces, preferably open air.

If steam or inert gases have been injected into a confined space, the space needs to be ventilated before effecting personnel entry since both steam and inert gases are non-life sustaining. For example, some of the aviation turbine fuel tanks are automatically filled with Nitrogen as the fuel level falls.

Steam will increase the temperature of the space and the space is to be allowed to cool before allowing people to enter and work.

Care should be taken so that no electrical spark is introduced into the confined space. The motor drive for the supply / exhaust fans and their controls should be outside the confined space.

After ventilating for about 24 hours, the confined space is to be re-tested for presence of hazardous gases and presence of life-sustaining levels of Oxygen. Personnel should be allowed to enter the compartment only when the test results are satisfactory.

Even after the atmospheric tests conducted in a confined space is deemed satisfactory, the condition can reverse due to the nature of work carried out within the space.

  • For example, if a metallic tank is chipped and cleaned initially and paint application has been done, the paint fumes are both hazardous and flammable.

  • Another example is hot work such as cutting / brazing inside a confined space will reduce the Oxygen level and leave hazardous gases within.

In all cases, periodic monitoring is essential to ensure that confined spaces are safe to work within. This is applicable for carrying out hot work onto the confined space walls from outside as well. For example, if hot work is to be carried out on to the metal sides of a confined fuel tank, the tank needs to be inspected and cleared as “Safe to work” periodically.

Isolation of the Confined Spaces

The confined space where work is to be carried out internally and externally should be isolated from all energy sources through “Lock Out Tag Out “ processes as follows:

  • All electric circuits should be switched off and the incoming switch locked.

  • All other energy such as hydraulic and pneumatic air supplies should be bled till empty and the supply valves are to be shut and locked.

  • All mechanical drives such as belt or chain drives should be disconnected and stowed away.

  • All mechanical moving parts within a confined space should be secured safely.

  • The entry manhole cover should be opened and secured safely in the open position to avoid accidental closing.

Other Hazards

Confined spaces could also have other hazards such as:

  • Low ceiling height causing personnel to crouch and move inside. Chances of banging head onto appendages and the ceiling can exist.

  • Low or nil visibility since the space is not lit well.

  • Slippery surfaces due to stored chemicals and even water.

  • defective or missing ladder rungs in the space

  • Falling objects; this could be from people working at higher levels within the space or material being removed / being cut.

  • High temperature within the space due to exposure of the external surface to hot sun or low ventilation in the surrounding compartments. Periodic rotation of staff working inside is essential to reduce fatigue and dehydration.

  • Noise is another hazard. Sounds may get amplified beyond allowable limits, within the space.

Personal Protection Gear

Though the list is not exhaustive, the following are considered essential:

  • Chemical suites in case of entering spaces containing hazardous chemicals

  • Industrial safety helmet, preferably with a miner’s torch on it.

  • Breathing apparatus (Self contained or with re-circulation depending on the space content and current state) when the Oxygen levels are low or hazardous gases are still present.

  • Ear defenders / plugs

  • Eye protection

  • Non skid safety shoes with rubber soles and steel toe caps

  • Work gloves

  • Fall arrester or full body harnesses; to be used while entering and leaving the space and if working at a height within the compartment.

  • Safety communication and rescue rope lines. If the person working within the space is visible to the support person outside, rope communication lines are not necessary and voice communication can be resorted to.

  • Lead lamps from a low voltage DC source

As part of the Hazard assessment, confirm whether the person entering the space can enter through the available opening, wearing all the protective gear and can be evacuated also in the same state. If not possible, alternative strategies will have to be devised.

Support and Emergency Team

No one should be allowed to enter a confined space without at least one person standby, manning the communication rope line, outside the space. The emergency rescue team should be in a quick access position to attend in case of emergencies.

Each person entering the space should have a buddy outside monitoring his progress.

The rescue process should be planned in advance and practiced regularly. An unplanned rescue act could endanger other lives also.

The people entering confined spaces and the support team are to be fully briefed about the hazards, work needed to be done, work process flow, who-is-to-do-what, sequence of entry / exit, tools and other material to be carried etc.

First aid kits with all essential material should be kept handy in the vicinity of work, with the support team.

The communication signals should be mutually agreed and understood by all. These should be practised too to identify the difference between a quick tug and a long pull. A Few examples are given below:

  • One quick tug every 5 minutes would mean everything fine

  • Two quick tugs could mean that he needs something from top

  • Three quick tugs could mean he wants to send something up

  • Long pulling on the rope or frantic tugging means he is in trouble and needs help

  • No tugs or pulls for more than 10 minutes would mean immediate assisted evacuation of the person from the space.

It is worthwhile developing a “Standard Operating Process” (SOP) for any work related to confined spaces, so that it becomes part of a standard drill by all concerned.

Part 3 of this series will have a check off list that can be consulted and confirmed before undertaking work within confined spaces.

Safety Matters, While Working in Confined Spaces Part 1

This article has been written out of personal and institutional experiences and should not be taken as a formal guideline for working in confined spaces. Please refer to relevant safety manuals before undertaking such work.

Definition of Confined Space – A space that has any one or multiple characteristics indicated below is deemed to be “Confined Space”:

  •  Limited number and / or size for entry and exit for the space. Examples – Water tanks / Fuel or oil storage silos / Manhole chambers in sewerage lines etc. Man hole sizes may be very small restricting fast movement. There may be just one manhole provided in a tank.
  • Unfavourable natural ventilation. Example – Water and oil tanks are normally kept hermetically sealed to avoid contamination from outside, hence there is no natural ventilation. Manholes in sewerage lines may have some ventilation due to its widely connected network but may not be able to sustain life. Toxic or inflammable gases may occupy the spaces.

  • Not designed for worker occupancy normally. ExampleThis could be material storage rooms in basement areas, with very low or no ventilation due to various reasons. May not have life-sustaining gases, but may have other non-life sustaining or toxic gas concentrations.

Some of the confined spaces found in workplaces may have a combination of all the above characteristics, complicating the working within the spaces and emergency rescue operations. Hazards identification needs to be thorough and foolproof in all the above cases.

Hazardous Atmospheres

The atmosphere within a confined space could become hazardous because of lack of natural air movement. This could lead to the atmosphere being:

  •  Oxygen deficient (Less than 19.5%). An existing atmosphere within a confined space may be Oxygen deficient. Further Oxygen depletion could occur due to human physical activity within, welding, cutting, chemical reaction (rust formation, fermentation etc). Oxygen could get displaced by heavier non life-sustaining gases such as Carbon dioxide or Freon or Hydrogen Sulphide. If the Oxygen level is less than 19.5%, entry is to be restricted and allowed wearing Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) only.
  • Toxic. Toxic atmosphere could be found in confined spaces due to:

    • Gases coming out of the residue left in the tank even after the bulk of the material has been evacuated. This could be sticking to the side walls or settled to the bottom of a tank. Dangerous Hydrogen Sulphide gas can emanate out of decomposed material.

    • Even fresh water tanks could have hazardous gases such as Chlorine which is not life-sustaining.

    • Bi-products of work such as cutting / brazing / painting / cleaning /  can form a hazardous mixture of gases within confined spaces.

    • Gases from an adjacent compartment or work space could enter a confined space and remain trapped there.

    • Material handled could form concentrated toxic gas areas, even with partial ventilation. Sewerage inspection chambers could trap lethal gases from the sewer.

  • Flammable. When three essential components, namely, (a) presence of Oxygen, (b) a flammable mixture of vapour / gases / dust and (c) a source of ignition are present together in a space, fire and explosion are inevitable. Different gases / vapour / dust have different levels flammability. A small electric spark from a motor or even a breaker contact could form the source of ignition. An oxygen enriched atmosphere (with more than 21% Oxygen) can cause inflammable material to auto-ignite and burn violently.

To be continued in Part 2 of this series. Part 2 contains thoughts on “Testing the atmosphere within confined spaces”, “Isolating the confined spaces”, “Other likely hazards within confined spaces”, “Personal protection gear”, “Support team” and “Training” aspects.