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Electrical Panel Clearance

My name is Jill, Chief Safety Officer with Vivid Learning Systems. I'm a former OSHA inspector here to help you identify and correct workplace safety hazards.

Could today be the day where you're having an emergency in your workplace and you need to get to an electrical disconnect or an electrical panel to turn something off quickly? Could you do it without having obstructions in your path?

When you're doing your workplace inspections always look at your panels and make sure that you don't have things parked in front of your electrical panels or disconnects like floor scrubbers are stored equipment or anything that could block your access to being able to turn power off quickly. There should be at least three to three-and-a-half feet of clearance in front of all electrical disconnects and breaker panels. In fact some employers go so far as to mark off a line on the floor or paint an area. It's a deterrent to employees to make sure they're not parking things in front of the electrical panel so that you can get to them quickly if you need to turn power off to something.

Next be sure that your breaker panels and electrical disconnects are labeled. Take a look inside your breaker panels and look through the labels make sure all the breakers are labeled as to what they are powering, and be sure that you've updated any changes that have been made since an electrical upgrade that you may have had in your facility.

Now these labels are very important for two reasons, and you want to make sure that they're legible  as well that people can read them. But they're important because if you need to turn something off, you want to make sure that you're turning off the correct breaker and when you're going to lock and tagged a piece of equipment out if you're choosing the right breaker are the right electrical disconnect.

Finally if you're looking to give a work assignment to your safety committee or other work groups you can have them start doing some of these inspections to make sure that the electrical panels aren't being obstructed and that the labels are up to date.

Now remember if there's any specific work that needs to be done to the electrical panels or disconnects you want that done by a qualified electrician. But being able to move obstructions and no deficiencies and panels is something that a work group could say we do without hurting themselves.

I hope you gained a safety skill today. If you know someone who needs this go ahead and pass it on.

Safety is everyone's business.