What’s the difference between an unqualified and a qualified electric worker?
OSHA and the NFPA have specific definitions for a qualified electric worker – basically, someone who is trained and knowledgeable about tasks performed on electrical equipment, including safety measures, protective equipment, and task proficiency. Proper training with documentation is a critical part of your qualified electrical worker safety program.
However, what about unqualified workers? They cannot perform work on energized electrical equipment above 50 V, but they can be exposed to risks. While they cannot perform specific tasks and aren’t included in OSHA or NFPA requirements, unqualified workers may still operate in the vicinity of exposed energized circuits – creating an opportunity for dangerous situations.
Unqualified workers may have some electrical knowledge and experience but are not qualified to work on energized equipment. They lack experience and training in identifying and preventing dangers associated with working on or near electrical hazards.
Unqualified workers need to be trained to recognize these situations and understand electrical safety to avoid accidents.
In the last 10 years, more than 20,000 workers in the U.S. were injured in workplace electrical accidents. Most of these accidents occurred from:
- Unsafe equipment or installation
- Unsafe environment
- Unsafe work practices
While your qualified electric workers should be trained to recognize and address these situations, unqualified workers are a major risk. Just telling them to avoid dangerous situations is not an option.
In our previous post, What Makes a Qualified Electric Worker, we talked about the importance of developing a formal training program for your qualified electric workers and making sure they follow it.
Don’t forget your unqualified workers – it’s just as important to train them on how to recognize and avoid dangerous situations. Their jobs may take them in the vicinity of energized electrical equipment even though they aren’t qualified to work on it. All employees should understand electrical safety to avoid accidents.
What should unqualified workers know?
- The risks of energized equipment
- How to protect themselves and others when they work around electricity
- What tasks can be done only by qualified workers
- Always respect warning signs and barriers designed to protect them from live parts
These requirements aren’t limited to the electric utility industry – construction has the highest rate of fatal electric injuries. Any workplace with energized equipment should make sure their unqualified workers know this information.
The best way to address safety for unqualified workers is to include them in your training plan. Following the same structure, you use for your qualified electric workers will help you provide a safe, productive workplace.
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