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The dangers of hazardous energy in the workplace

South Carolina workers may not be aware of the dangers of hazardous energy, which can occur when various machines or equipment are unexpectedly started or release stored energy during maintenance. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, there are several million workers at risk for hazardous energy injuries, including machine operators, craft workers, laborers and electricians.

Hazardous energy injuries happen when the energy in a machine or piece of equipment is not properly controlled during maintenance. Common injuries include burns, electrocution, crushing, cuts, lacerations, amputations and fractures. Such injuries could occur when a conveyor belt suddenly restarts after a jam is cleared, wiring in a piece of machinery shorts out or a steam valve turns on during maintenance. Hazardous energy incidents account for almost 10 percent of all serious accidents in certain industries.

In order to protect workers, employers must follow the OSHA standard which provides practices and procedures for the proper lockout and tagout of equipment. Everyone who works in an area where lockout/tagout practices are used must be trained in energy control procedures, and workers in charge of these practices must be educated to recognize potential hazardous energy sources. Federal law states that all workers have the right to a safe work environment and employers cannot retaliate against workers who report safety violations.

According to OSHA, workplace injuries involving hazardous energy require an average of 24 work days of recovery time. Most employers are required by state law to provide workers' compensation coverage for their employees, and a person who has been injured in such a workplace accident may want to have the assistance of an attorney in pursuing a claim for benefits.

Source: OSHA, "Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout)," accessed on Jan. 29, 2016

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Anderson, SC 29621

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