How to perform an electrical safety audit

Once you have taken the necessary steps to develop your electrical safety program and you have gone through the initial phases of implementing a change (usually denial, anger, resistance, exploration and then commitment) then you are ready to perform an electrical safety audit. This will help you understand how successful the changes you made really are as well as paint a picture of what you should be striving for.

Audit seems to be a scary word in the eyes of most managers and probably for good reason. Usually, an audit by your insurance company or corporate accountants can lead to hours upon hours of work for your team, or potential embarrassment of the management group. But an electrical safety audit should not leave you with the same feeling. It really should be viewed as a chance to improve the safety of all your employees, which can only lead to good things.

So how do you perform the audit?

First of all, you need to think about what you are trying to accomplish by performing the audit. Let's think about it for a second... we have a written electrical safety program that outlines how our employees are working in and around electrical equipment in order to stay safe... and we want to audit that program. So we will need to look very closely at three things, documentation, people, and equipment.

Documentation

During the audit, you'll want to spend some time reviewing the documentation that is in place. There is really only two things you need to concern yourself with. Is the appropriate documentation in place and is it kept up-to-date?

You'll want to reference my other articles on creating electrical safety programs in order to ensure you have a handle on the key documents that should be in place (or you can get the eBook here). Once you have a list of the pertinent documents then, simply make sure they are in place and that the information is in line with relevant codes and standards (usually CSAZ462 or NFPA70E).

Some of the documentation needs to be reviewed to ensure it is kept up to date. The best example of this would be training records but there are other items such as relay coordination settings, switchgear maintenance records and test equipment certification records that all need to be recorded and accessible.

Equipment

Next, it's time to take to the field.

Bring a camera to take pictures of the equipment you visit, but make sure you have a solid strategy of what you are taking pictures of. With today's storage capabilities it's easy to snap a shot of everything you come across but remember when it is all said and done you are probably going to want to put together a report, and going through thousands of pictures is going to be very time-consuming. So make a list of all the pictures you'll need for your report and when you get them all stop taking more pictures (unless you really find something interesting).

Another useful list is an equipment check sheet. What you want this for is a reminder of all the items to look for in each place you visit. Some examples of this would be:

  • Does the equipment have arc flash and shock labels?
  • Is PPE stored in the room?
  • Is the room kept clean or used for storage?
  • Check examples of lock-out
  • Are panels open or missing?

It's important to collect as much information as possible but also to do it consistently across all rooms. The reason for this is it will provide the end user (of the audit) to see where the issues are and at what scale. Let's say you found an example of a lock-out that was performed incorrectly. To some this would be a near miss or a means for dismissal and if you put that in a report it may raise a lot of eyebrows (or sadly at some sites, no-one will bat an eye) but without knowing what you found everywhere else it's hard to gauge its importance. Maybe you checked 100 locks during your audit and this was the only one you found done incorrectly. That to me sounds like a success.

People

The most important part of the audit. And because of how important it is I'm going to devote an entire post to it. Check back next weekend for part two of How to perform an electrical safety audit.

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For more information with regards to on-site training and electrical safety consulting services, you can contact me directly.