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  • Over the top OSHA rules

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    Old 05-18-2013, 06:05 AM   #1
    pete c
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    Over the top OSHA rules

    I see the threads here primarily address potentially dangerous situations. My issue is the opposite. It concerns braindead, over the top requirements regarding electrical safety. In particular, I am talking about OSHA's obsession with arc flash boundaries and working on energized equipment.

    I have been an electronics tech for nearly 30 years. First, in the military, later in civilian life. During this period, there have been sensible regulations in place. It was understood that as an electronics tech, you would need to work around energized equipment and that you would need to use a bit of common sense. Working around normal voltages of 220 or less was quite common and very safe using simple rules such as, don't touch that, it's energized and will bite you. There were more stringent rules regarding working around higher voltages and more importantly, higher potential currents, where extra PPE was required. I was a Radar tech and worked around such things and using this additional PPE was definitely a good idea as not using it would likely get you killed.

    Today we have rules that say if you are working on energized equipment above 50V, you must suit up like an EOD bomb disposal guy. And by work on, I mean simply being near an open cabinet. Last week, I had a situation where a piece of equipment wouldn't power up. I pushed an e-stop which de-energizes the cabinet, opened the cabinet, re-energized and simply looked into the cabinet to see if I had any lights on a servo amp. I did not actually reach into the cabinet to work on anything. My supervisor saw this and documented it. Next thing I know, I am in HR being lectured about safety and written up for this. It was treated as an "egregious" violation and puts me in a position where any other safety violations in the next 3 years can result in immediate firing.

    My biggest problem with this is that there are times where alignments need to be made to things like servo amps. These amps have very, very small pots that require adjustment with tweakers (really small insulated screw drivers). Making these adjustments with bare hands is quite challenging. Doing it in full arc flash protection battle gear will be impossible as far as I can tell.

    I was wondering if there are any allowances made by OSHA where they recognize that in certain situations, you just need the extra dexterity and normal common sense will have to do.

    There is one other question I have. Who actually writes the regs? Do they have the slightest clue about how electricity works? These regs regarding arc flash are all voltage based. There is no mention of current.

    As far as I am concerned, they have this backwards. You can have a device that works at 50K volts, anti-static devices, come to mind. Shorting one out will result in a bit of a zap, but, not much else. Now, try dropping a wrench across a car battery's terminals. I did this once. Yikes! Arc flash galore. All from a "safe" 12VDC.

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