Hazardous Energy & Its Harmful Effects
‘Hazardous energy’ may be defined by the appropriate agencies of a country, but more or less, any electrical, mechanical, gravitational, thermal, chemical, hydraulic, pneumatic, nuclear or any other energy source in terms of machinery or equipment that can harm people is hazardous energy. One needs to be cautious, and due processes put in place, to ensure safety of workers during maintenance/ servicing of equipment. This is because of the unexpected release of stored energy. While death may be the result in the most serious cases, injuries include damage by electrocution, amputation, fractures, laceration, crushing of body parts and burns. Hopefully, you now have an idea how ‘hazardous’ this hazardous energy is.
As previously stated, those involved in the maintenance or servicing of machines may be seriously injured, or even killed in case this energy isn’t controlled using LOTO (Lockout Tagout) or any other methods.
Sources of hazardous energy need to be carefully identified. While some, like electricity/ power supplied to a piece of machinery, or the danger of an object falling, are obvious, others, such as air pressure in a system are hidden.
Let us discuss some of these types of energy mentioned earlier, in greater detail. One of the most common forms, electrical energy is not just live via power lines, it is also stored in batteries and capacitors.
Mechanical energy can best be described as the energy in a spring that’s compressed. The energy would release when the spring is released. Similarly, the release of mechanical energy can cause a worker to get struck by an object. Simply speaking, gravitational energy, or rather gravitational potential energy means the potential of an object suspended high above the ground to inflict harm by falling over you. The heavier an object is, and the greater the height it’s suspended it, the more gravitational potential energy there is. Chemical energy results in a fire, or explosion. It’s a result of a chemical reaction.
Note that all these mentioned types of energy may be primary, or residual. Primary energy sources are the direct sources of power, while residual sources refer to energy that is stored. Never take stored energy lightly, failure to dissipate it is one of the most common causes of accidents. In order to control hazardous energy, a machine or equipment, i.e. a system must be isolated from both primary as well as residual energy sources.
Hopefully, with my this article, everyone now understands what hazardous energy is, in what forms does it exist, and its dangers.