Electrical Safety Management Systems

Published on Feb 14, 2019

Implementing an Electrical Safety Program in Middle East Industries

In this context, the demand for power across industries have increased resulting in complex power generation plants and high and low voltage systems and networks being built to supply energy-intensive industries such as aluminium smelting, steel manufacturing, oil refineries, etc. posing inherent electrical risks to be carefully managed. Organizations have adopted different international electrical safety standards causing inconsistency and fragmented electrical rules being practised, often without an adequate overarching electrical safety program (ESP) to effectively address electrical risks. Furthermore, the industrial development in the Middle East region has also attracted a diversified workforce, which holds various perceptions about electrical risks, skills, work practices and rules, all of which can have the unintended consequence of creating unsafe working environments.

According to Electrical Safety Foundation International, electricity can be a leading cause of fatalities or serious injuries at work. There was a 35% increase in electrical injuries between 2016 and 2017 and contact with or exposure to, electricity was the sixth most common cause of workplace fatality in the US.

As an international organization, our experience indicates that challenges regarding electrical safety, while nuanced, are not unique to a specific region.

dss+ role is to work with companies which may be exposed to operational risks from both high and low-voltage electrical systems – by combining global insights with local expertise.

dss+ focus is to raise the level of awareness of electrical risks and drive sustainable risk reduction through fit-for-purpose electrical safety programs integrated into broader operations and asset management. Unless electrical risks are fully understood, assessed, and effectively mitigated, the likelihood of serious incidents, injuries and even fatalities, remains high.

A step towards improved Electrical Regulatory Requirements for the GCC region

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken steps toward improving electrical safety by developing a set of standardized regulations through the creation of the Abu Dhabi Occupational Safety and Health Center, an Abu Dhabi Emirate governmental body in 2010. The body developed an integrated Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) system to protect the workers and to spread the OSH culture within the Emirate.

Included in the OSH system are codes of practice related to electrical safety, lock out-tag out and technical guidelines related to OSH incident notification, investigation, and reporting. This is a promising first step toward better reporting mechanisms for hazardous industries which will progressively contribute to raising the level of standards and practices to mitigate specific risks.

However, to create a sustainable change in electrical safety for the region and keep pace with rapid industrial expansion, industrial companies need to think beyond checklists of best practices and operating procedures and adopt a risk-based and holistic approach.

Establishing a sound Electrical Safety Program to address electrical risks

dss+ recently worked with an organization to enhance its electrical safety management systems, practices and related mindsets and behaviors to mitigate its electrical risk profile and support continuous improvement.

The partnership with dss+ started following some electrical-related incidents and injuries that involved non-electrical personnel at the company.

Together with dss+, the facilities developed a comprehensive tailored approach to close a multitude of identified gaps in electrical safety systems and practices such as lack of standardized rules and requirements, inadequate Personal Protective Equipment and tools, absence of some energy isolation equipment, and lack of testing and inspection programs for RCDs (Residual Current Devices) to name a few.

The Electrical Safety Program aimed to address three main areas, focusing on:

1. Establishing Electrical Safety Governance

Implementing a clear electrical safety governance structure tasked to standardize electrical safety practices across all work groups, areas and sites, and in particular to:

  • Establish an overarching Electrical Safety Code of Practice providing a set of clear requirements across all elements of an ESP.
  • Ensure effective communication flow to facilitate a collaboration.
  • Work experience among teams across their large and complex facility and promote sharing of best practices.

2. Reducing Primary Electrical Risks and Strengthening Key Systems

Developing and adopting specific risk reduction measures to mitigate both arc flash and shock hazards across a wide range of electrical equipment and systems as well as strengthening and standardizing key electrical safety procedures for high-risk tasks.

3. Building the capabilities

Raising the level of awareness on electrical hazards associated with both high voltage and low voltage systems and training all electrical practitioners on the new requirements of Safe Electrical Work Practices to ensure a clear and consistent understanding. A key success factor in sustaining an ESP is obtaining continued senior management support for the program and its improvement initiatives. For this reason, having a member of the senior leadership team sponsoring the program demonstrates the necessary commitment and resources for risk reduction.

The integrated, overarching Electrical Safety program resulted in tangible electrical risk reduction as well as provided the foundations for continuous improvement:

1. Increased awareness of the electrical hazards and risks

Across the organization, employees began to have a clear understanding of the electrical hazards associated with high and low-voltage systems and tasks. Increased risk awareness also triggered a change in behaviours with a higher level of operational discipline during the execution of electrical tasks. This has enabled them to implement a sustainable risk mitigation process to continuously build an electrical safety culture.

2. Strengthened electrical safe practices

The Electrical Safety Code of Practice provided standardized requirements across all areas, being implemented during the planning and execution of jobs to mitigate electrical risks and perform safe operations.

3. Strengthened Electrical Safe Practices

Planning and execution of the job became key requirements to perform safe electrical tasks. The rules defined, revised and developed as part of the Electrical Safety Code of Practice started to be applied and implemented in the day-to-day activities.

4. Established Continuous improvement

The permanent multi-disciplinary electrical safety team provided a companywide view of systemic challenges and constituted an effective platform to foster continuous improvement through electrical safety KPI monitoring, planning of improvement initiatives, periodic audits and sharing of near misses and incidents.

Closing remarks

Electrical risks are among the top operational risks in energy-intensive industries characterized by extensive high and low-voltage equipment and systems. Our experience in the GCC region and fast-growing economies suggests that electrical risks are still not fully understood nor effectively mitigated and are a cause of operational incidents and serious injuries or even fatalities. A risk-based and comprehensive electrical safety program as discussed above provides a sound foundation for electrical risk reduction and sustained improvements.