Variety is the spice of life – and variety in field evaluations keeps this particular service very exciting. Aside from addressing the equipment itself, each workplace environment of which it is installed and the workers responsible for operating and maintenance become fascinating variables. The television series “Dirty Jobs” frequently comes to mind, where Mike Rowe as an outside observer performs various occupational duties to provide the viewers a glimpse into an otherwise hidden world of our workforce.
To access unlabeled electrical equipment in its environment, the third-party evaluator must often step into different worlds to participate in the daily activities of various workplace and workers. The USA is privileged to have commonality in workplace protocol and cultural customs among our workers (i.e. organization structure, breakrooms, food trucks, etc.), and national consensus standards that ensure electrical equipment is similar in design and construction; however, evaluating an industrial control panel in a wastewater treatment plant is a much different experience than in a semiconductor manufacturing cleanroom … and the conditions of a food-processing facility is somewhere between those two environments.
Electrical hazards are a normal part of the field evaluation process, as inspecting and testing of such equipment is to be expected per the scope of work. The Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace (NFPA 70E) is used to determine Personal Protective Equipment based on the incident energy and condition of the equipment. Otherwise, evaluations that occur in a general environment where physical hazards like step-ladders or vehicle traffic, and health hazards like cold or heat stress can be determined by observation to select the appropriate level of protection.
Most people work in rain, snow, sleet and hail in a normal world, but nobody wants to watch “Dirty Jobs” to see Mike Rowe deliver the mail. Viewers want to watch him don the hazmat suit and inspect a sewer. That is because risking biological exposure is exciting! And so is risking exposure to chemicals, EMI, RF, X-Ray, Lasers … not really. Exposure to silica, asbestos, radioactive isotopes … no thank you!!
The reality is that US workers risk exposure to these hazards daily, but workplace with such hazards are required to have an Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) Departments to facilitate and implement rules to ensure safety of worker. These workplaces also have the need to install unlabeled electrical equipment that require field evaluations. Fortunately for third-party evaluators, it is common for these site owners to require all visitors to possess OSHA training card or attend a site-specific safety training. In addition to safety training, it is also common to require visitors to be escorted on-site.
While experiencing the variety of workplace is exciting, it is the interaction with workers that provides the greatest satisfaction. Entering a decommissioned nuclear production complex sounds awesome, but much can be learned by walking alongside the maintenance person and evaluating the equipment in their workplace is contributing to making a hazardous job safer.