Recognizing Energy Sources that Create Hazards
Hazards can be created by different energy sources, and if we can recognize all of the energy sources, we can identify the potential hazards.
Employers are responsible for the safety and health of their workforce. And training to recognize ALL energy sources is key to identifying potential hazards and creating a safe environment.
Most people are familiar with electrical and mechanical energy—both are commonly encountered in the workplace and can create hazards. However, there are also other less well-known types of energy that can lead to unsafe situations, and in some cases hazards can also be developed through combined energy sources.
Awareness of all the energy sources that can pose danger (listed below) can help us to either eliminate them or stay out of their “line of fire.”
Potentially hazardous energy sources include:
- Biological: Matter or materials that pose a threat to the health of living organisms, primarily humans. These include animal feces, bites, scratches, bacteria, blood-borne pathogens, contaminated water, insects and viruses.
- Chemical: Substances that have the potential to create physical or health hazards to people or the environment. These include combustibles, corrosives, dusts, flammable vapors, inert gas, pyrophoric substances, reactive hazards, toxic compounds and welding fumes.
- Electrical: A dangerous condition in which contact or equipment failure can result in electric shock, arc-flash burn, thermal burn or blast. These may include power lines, transformers, control panels, static charges, stored energy, power tools, temporary lighting, lightning, cords and wiring.
- Gravity: This well-known force, which keeps our feet on the ground, can also lead to falling objects or people, tripping, or collapse of structures.
- Motion: Any change in position of objects or substances. This could include body positioning, flowing water, lifting, bending, straining, vehicles, vessel or equipment movement and wind.
- Mechanical: The energy of a mechanical system such as rotation, vibration or motion in an otherwise stationary piece of equipment or machinery. This includes compressed springs, conveyers, drive belts, motion, motors, rotating equipment and hydraulic equipment.
- Pressure: This is a continuous force exerted on an object (or substance) by another object. This can be caused by changes in temperature, the combined weight of materials, force inside a machine, and a build-up of chemical gases. Some examples would be compressed gas cylinders, control lines, vessels, tank hoses or pneumatic and hydraulic equipment.
- Radiation: The process in which energy is emitted as particles or waves produced by radioactive substances and nuclear reactions. These include welding arcs, X-rays, microwaves and naturally occurring radioactive material.
- Sound: Vibrations, which travel through the air or another medium, create sound. These vibrations could be caused by equipment noise, an impact, or high-pressure relief.
- Temperature: A measure of hot and cold (or the proportional measure of the kinetic energy of molecules, which can lead to expansion or contraction), temperature extremes can be especially harmful in confined spaces. Stress can be induced in an object or structural member by restraint against movement required to accommodate temperature changes. This may include environmental conditions, surfaces, liquids and gases, hot work, steam, extreme and changing weather conditions, and friction.