A popular saying goes: “Choose a job you love, and you never have to work a single day in your life”. There may be no denying that power plant engineers are just about the most passionate professionals one may find in any industry. They are fully aware that doing their jobs well has an encompassing growth effect, not only to a company or a group of companies, but to a whole city or even an entire country. But while they may truly love what they do, they literally put their lives at stake each and every day they go to work, as their jobs and workplace are classified among the most hazardous of all.
But, do power plant professionals really have to expose themselves in such life-threatening danger each day? The best energy organizations in the world think that the occupational hazards related to the power industry can be mitigated. They understand that keeping the workplace safe is not only the right thing to do for their employees, but is also the best way to optimize their operations.
According to industry experts, power plants and the energy industry as a whole have made notable improvements in terms of employee safety records in recent years. This can be largely ascribed to the presence of strict regulations and conformity schemes, and to what can be regarded as a paradigm shift in the way energy companies are introducing and implementing safety programs in their operations. Safety programs, for most companies, are being embedded in the culture of the entire organization, and this fact, they happily report, has been instrumental in making them more attractive and competitive in the marketplace.
Common hazards in power-related jobs
The above-mentioned observation of industry though-leaders is supported by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA reports that there has been a consistent downward trend in the number of annual fatalities and injuries in the industry. OSHA cites that for electric power generation and distribution, natural gas distribution, and water sewage and other distribution companies, the number of annual fatalities has decreased from 73 in 2006 to 26 in 2009. The total percentage of injury and illness cases has also dropped during the same period from 4.1 cases per 100 workers to about 3.3.
In order to further promote workplace safety and hazard mitigation, the industry has zeroed in on three threats which it says have been responsible for the majority of the recorded injuries: Direct contact with electricity, fires & explosions of boiler equipment, and contact with hazardous chemicals.
Direct contact with electricity
Industry experts say that electrical shocks and burns account for numerous injuries and deaths in the power industry each year. Electricity-related injuries are largely attributed to electrocutions and burns from arc flashes. The number of electric shocks has been minimized in recent years, owing to the stricter drive of most companies towards having their workers wear proper safety protection. While industry experts still notice that in a few cases those who do not have to directly work in electrical cabinets are not yet required to wear any protection, many companies are now compelling their professionals to wear flame-resistant clothing, and are now conducting electrical hazard and awareness training more regularly.
Boiler fires and explosions
Even if most of the power plant equipment nowadays are infused with the latest technologies, boiler accidents in the power industry are still common, say thought-leaders. In order to prevent injuries in this regard, many power companies are now observed to be focusing on three key components of a boiler safety program: Operator training, maintenance & testing of safety devices, and upgrading of equipment as seen necessary. According to research, by concentrating on these areas, the risks ascribed to boiler fires and explosions can be reduced, and the losses related to production stoppage and property repairs can be virtually eradicated.
Contacts with hazardous chemicals
Exposure to dangerous chemicals is another major cause of injury to many workers in the energy industry every year. In order to promote the reduction of chemical-related injuries, OSHA has developed safety regulations in relation to hazardous chemicals. While OSHA’s safety regulations provide the guidelines, it has given energy companies the liberty to identify the chemical hazards that exist in their locations, what type of safety equipment should be utilized, how training should be conducted, and how equipment should be tested and maintained.
The importance of a safe workplace in the power industry
In a lot of occasions, giving premium to employee safety has been proven to bring about a higher morale and productivity in the workplace. Progressive organizations realize that the cost of a sound employee safety program can be justified by the productivity benefits that it provides. Costs related to employee injuries, death, attrition and production suspension are real and proven, and many companies in the power industry are now making inroads into preventing their catastrophic consequences, on their way to running a more profitable, sustainable and admired organization.
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