The city I work for is building a new water treatment plant on a 230 acre site with several well houses that are currently in various stages of construction. Some well houses were constructed over two years ago under previous contracts, but none of them are completely finished. I am an electronics tech for the city water department and will be working in this plant. Since I am a licensed master electrician, I have been doing all of the electrical change orders for this project. The electrical contractor installed the equipment in the well houses and I wired some of the motors. The motor wiring was not in the electricians contract and the city refuses to give the electrical contractor any extra work. The well houses are small round structures and there is insufficient safe working space around all of the electrical equipment (See layout below). They were improperly designed and constructed that way. I discussed the safety issue with my supervisor and informed him that I would not work on any equipment while energized until they enlarged the buildings to meet code. His reply was that the buildings would not be rebuilt, that we would have to find a way to make it work, and that I was just trying to get out of doing the work. That pissed me off, so I talked to my department head about the safety hazard. Again, I was told that the buildings would not be rebuilt and he needed time to research this. The city electrical inspector agrees with me but I think his hands are tied since this is a city project and one of the city's engineering staff is doing the onsite inspections. While working in one of the well houses, I noticed one light fixture go off when the electric heater came on, so I wrote a work order to repair the problem. I will not work on it energized due to the insufficient safe working space, so my supervisor hired an electrical contractor to check the problem. I heard about this and informed him that this is an OHSA violation. I wrote a memo to my department head detailing the NEC (110-26) and OSHA (1910.303, 1926.403) violations. That got the wheels turning on resolving this issue.
Now tell me:
If NEC 110-26 only applies to energized equipment, how can you check voltage without safe working space? Or program the PLC in the control panel? Should the buildings be rebuilt to comply with 110-26? If the buildings are not rebuilt, should I contact OSHA?
I look forward to your comments and remember, SAFETY FIRST.
[This message has been edited by sparks55 (edited 04-04-2002).]
don't mean to rub no one the wrong way on this.so hear we go putting the costs of something first for the value of a human life.sparks55 has a good point safety should be first. maybe you guys might do it , but i'd be with sparks 55 on this & maybe it is exempt.that just shows you where a little money can get you.i'd rather loose my job than my life over something like this.heard & read quite a few cases of someone getting hurt or killed due to in sufficent space. hey guys i mean would you really work on omething like this?
Re: Safe Working Space#80353 04/01/0206:01 PM04/01/0206:01 PM
I am a taxpayer in this city and I am not pleased with paying to rebuild the pump houses. I was a contractor before taking the city job and I always stressed safety to my employees. As an employee, I want to work safely. That is why we have OSHA. I question your motive to work in an unsafe situation. What is the purpose of NEC 110-26 and OHSA 1926.403(i)? Why are you willing to ignore safety to make a buck? I pray for you and your employees, if you have any. Safety is not an accident, it prevents them.
Re: Safe Working Space#80354 04/01/0208:00 PM04/01/0208:00 PM
Have you considered purchasing a rubber blanket in the event you are forced to troubleshoot some of this equipment. In many industrial plants working space violations are a fact of life. If personal safety is your main concern, a rubber blanket would help.
Re: Safe Working Space#80355 04/01/0211:28 PM04/01/0211:28 PM
In the "real world", yes it is a fact of life that we can't always control the abuse of our working space requirements. However, I do share in your frustration. I constantly run into working space problems, some require some fancy contortions to get to!
It's also pretty hard to draw a line of what we will accept as a mere bending of the rules and what we will reject as breaking them.
Stand by what you believe in...
-Virgil Residential/Commercial Inspector 5 Star Inspections Member IAEI
Re: Safe Working Space#80356 04/01/0211:57 PM04/01/0211:57 PM
Thanks for your responses. This whole project was started over 3 years ago. None of the well houses are finished and the control panels aren't even wired yet. They still must comply with all building codes, even if constructed two years ago. Use of PPE does not exempt anyone from the NEC and OSHA requirement for safe working space, although rubber blankets may reduce the required space from 42" to 36" deep. I don't have a problem working on live equipment as long as there is enough space. Each of us can decide what risks we take, but the NEC and OSHA rules were written to reduce that risk. Would you work in a live 480V starter when the door opens less than 45 degrees?
Update on resolving the safety issue:
My supervisor said a meeting with the engineer is planned for this week with a directive from the city to make the well houses safe. This means whatever it takes. Here is a quote from the spec book:
"Installations must be entirely safe in every respect, and must not create any condition of any kind which will be harmful to any occupant of building, to operating personnel, to installation personnel, to testing personnel, to workmen, and to public; contractor for each installation shall be solely responsible for providing installations which will meet these conditions. If contractor believes that installation will not be safe for all parties, he shall so report in writing to the Engineer before any equipment is purchased or work is installed, giving his exact recommendations."
Kind of hard to argue with that!
Re: Safe Working Space#80358 04/02/0211:05 PM04/02/0211:05 PM