“Safety First!” is an old motto, but it still rings true to experienced lighting and electrical auditors: You simply can’t afford to get hurt on the job.
Being safe during an electrical audit helps preserve your client relationships, maximizes your profit and most importantly, keeps you injury-free so you can continue working, growing your business and enjoying life.
Sounds great … but how do you optimize your safety processes when every job is in a different setting?
Electrical audits are unique in that they can occur in nearly every work environment: manufacturing plants, schools, offices, warehouses, hospitals, government buildings, retail spaces and even parking garages. Taking the time to be aware of the dangers posed by each setting and preparing to handle them is vital to your audit strategy.
We spoke with Bob Oppermann of Accurate Auditors LLC, a veteran of hundreds of electrical audits, about how he and his team stay safe while performing efficient, detailed audits.
“The greatest safety hazard that professional auditors face is falling,” Oppermann told us. “Typically speaking, we are always looking up as we walk around a facility. This can be quite dangerous.”
Oppermann said he has learned to heighten his peripheral vision as he moves through a space with his eyes directed upward. But the most valuable safety tip he can offer is this: “Be aware of your environment and take the proper PPE [personal protective equipment].”
Different auditing locations contain different safety challenges.
- Manufacturing or extraction settings can be noisy and distracting. PPE such as hard-toed shoes, reflective vests, safety glasses, and hard hats are typically mandatory for all site visitors including contractors.
- Office settings are less overtly perilous, but just to be safe, Oppermann said, “I will often wear a reflective vest so that people can see me better. It also gives me credibility, as I look more ‘official.’”
- Distribution centers can be particularly treacherous if you're not paying attention. Forklift operators get paid partially based on the quantity (and accuracy) of the products they pick, Oppermann pointed out, “You don’t want to get in their way!” Walking around a corner can be particularly hazardous, so stay alert in these areas. According to the National Safety Council, forklift incidents caused 78 work-related deaths and 7,290 non-fatal injuries involving days away from work in 2020.
Communication Is a Key Safety Step
“Clear communication is the best way to avoid safety issues while you’re performing a lighting audit,” Oppermann said. “It’s important to always let people know why you are there.”
Often, a facilities team member will send out an email blast alerting workers that an electrical auditor will be on-site, but these emails often go overlooked or forgotten. “It’s imperative to let people know as you walk into a room that you’re there to ‘count lights’ so to speak,” Oppermann advised. “When people know you’re there, and why, they tend to stay out of your way.”
Unfortunately, a heads-up to employees isn’t enough in some environments, especially where the general public is involved.
“Grocery stores seem to be the worst,” Oppermann said. “Twice, I have been bumped while standing on top of an eight-foot ladder. In each case, the person who bumped me acted as if it were my fault for setting the ladder in their way.” Now when he sets up his ladders, Oppermann is sure to place four bright orange cones around the ladder.
(An eight-foot fall from a ladder is nothing to scoff at. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that workers who are 6 feet or more above lower levels are at risk for severe injury or death if they fall.)
What To Do If an Accident Occurs
If an accident does occur while performing an electrical audit, your first concern should be for yourself or your injured team member. After tending to the injured party, the next steps will depend on your company’s policies and those of your client. Even if the injury appears minor, it’s still worth having a medical professional examine it in case paperwork is needed later.
“Certainly, if there is an injury to the auditor, then going to the hospital and filing a full report is appropriate,” Oppermann said. “I have one client that wants a full report filled out if any skin is broken.”
The Business Case for Safe Electrical Audits
According to OSHA, work-related deaths and injuries cost the nation, employers, and individuals a collective $171 billion in 2019. Taking the proper safety measures not only reduces injuries significantly but the costs associated with injuries, including workers’ compensation payments, medical expenses, and lost productivity. “In addition,” says OSHA, “employers often find that process and other changes made to improve workplace safety and health may result in significant improvements to their organization's productivity and profitability.”
Oppermann has experienced this first-hand.
He once took a fall while auditing a grocery store. It was his third store of the day, and he dropped his tablet in the process. He had yet to sync the data from the tablet.
Luckily, the tablet only suffered damage to its glass lens (and Oppermann escaped with some pain but no broken bones).
“If the tablet had been rendered useless, the repercussions would’ve been very expensive,” Oppermann told us. “First of all, I would have had to replace the tablet. Second, I would have had to re-download my apps. This could have taken a day or two, especially if it happened on a weekend. Third, and perhaps even more important, I would have had to go back to the three stores and re-audit them.”
Failing to complete your audits due to safety issues can have significant financial repercussions for your business.
“If you’re unable to complete the audit, then the customer doesn’t get their information in a timely manner,” Oppermann said. “That could result in the auditor only getting partially paid, if at all. It could also stain the relationship between the end-user and the auditor’s client, resulting in the client losing the job.”
So, be safe out there! Your business, your reputation, and your health depend on it.