Crafting an Effective Electrical Safety Code of Practice using 5W1H Questions

Crafting an Effective Electrical Safety Code of Practice using 5W1H Questions

During my career in industry as an Electrical Supervisor, Maintenance Manager, HR Manager and now as an Instructor/Subject Matter Expert with Canada Training Group, I've seen many written Electrical Safety Programs (ESP's). Additionally, some companies have an Electrical Safety Code of Practice. These documents range from a few pages to documents exceeding 100 pages.

Canada Training Group asks clients to provide their one-line diagrams, arc flash studies and ESP documents so that our training courses can be customized to their company specific equipment, hazards and safety practices. Often during training, I ask class participants if they have seen the ESP document. Often the reply to my question is silence.

I always read over the ESP in preparation for my classes. Often the ESP has lots of information including policies, tables, flowcharts, forms, pages of definitions, appendices, and references to a mixture of company procedures, standards and OH&S regulations. Many questions come to my mind……. Is more info better? Is the FLHA form easy to fill out? Who is this ESP being written for? Is this ESP effective with the hands-on electrical workers? Is the detail and complexity likely to overwhelm them?

Some of my pet peeves with many of the electrical safety programs that I have reviewed include:

Contain motherhood statements – broad positive statements which are easy to agree with but lack specific actions.

Needlessly complex – Workers need to interpret and cross reference information contained in tables and flowcharts in order to choose their work procedure and PPE. In some tables, workers are required to determine short circuit capacity and device tripping times to select their PPE, the reality is that this is an overwhelming and mostly likely skipped safety task.

The ESP includes significant copy and paste from standards and OH&S Regulations.

Canned ESP's which attempt to address a wide sector of large and small workplaces with the same ESP, often glossing over or missing key safety components for a particular facility and adding unnecessary sections completely unrelated to the safety needs of the worker.

Are not written in "user friendly" language.

As a result, I often question - how effective is this electrical safety program? Will the existence of the ESP enable behavior change when risk associated with tasks is high?

My work and that of my colleagues within Canada Training Group involves partnering with clients to create a customized bespoke Code of Practice for their organization, one that complements what is already working at that facility.

A Code of Practice is a document written to complement a company's extensive electrical safety and OH&S programs. A well written Code of Practice provides focused and practical guidance to assist workers to comply with the Company Electrical Safety Program and legal obligations.

Our mission is to achieve the focused and practical guidance in a user-friendly and understandable way for the workers that will use the Code of Practice. We want the Code of Practice to be specific to the company, their equipment and the work they perform. Reflecting on the techniques we've used for past project planning, one hallmark is the use of the 5W1H approach for problem solving and project planning.

This approach hits home when thinking about creating a customized company Code of Practice.

Who – One of the key questions when designing a Code of Practice is who the stakeholders are that will benefit from having a Code of Practice.

  • Business owner and/or Senior manager(s)
  • Health & Safety Specialist
  • Front line supervision, particularly the Electrical Supervisor
  • Qualified Electrical Workers; the hands-on guys (Electricians, linesmen, technicians, etc.)
  • Operators who switch energized electrical equipment and may not have electrical background or training.
  • Contractors – outsiders who perform electrical work on your site.

It is often said, safety is a shared responsibility. True but in different ways. A Code of Practice needs to address each identified stakeholder.

Why – This question addresses the reason for the Code of Practice and may identify multiple objectives including:

  • No worker incurs injuries or near miss incidents while working on electrical systems.
  • Stay out of trouble with H&S regulatory authorities.
  • Achieves a high level of Due Diligence with electrical safety activities.

What – This question identifies specific types of work and interactions with energized electrical systems that poses risk to workers.

What equipment do we service?

  • What voltage levels are we competent and equipped to work on?
  • What knowledge, skills, PPE and test equipment are required for the work we do?
  • What procedure or SOP's do we have or need?
  • What electrical work do we contract out to specialized firms?
  • What should be included in the scope of work covered by the Code of Practice?

Where – this question identifies the range of facilities and locations covered in the scope

When – When is various electrical tasks required.

  • Are qualified employees available?
  • Are QEW's in teams or working alone?
  • When is a QEW allowed to work alone?
  • When is the risk considered too high for the organization?

HOW – this is one of the most important questions when developing a Code of Practice and should answer the question "How" for all the "Who" identified earlier.

How do we manage persons with different roles, levels of training, backgrounds, and qualifications to stay safe? The Code of Practice needs to focus on each separately.

  • How do supervisors know QEW's are qualified?
  • How do workers know they have appropiately rated PPE and test equipment?
  • How do we manage the job hazard analysis and retention of documentation?

These are a few examples of the kind of questions to ask. Creating a Code of Practice requires asking many 5W1H questions and searching hard for the complete answers to establish a framework for a well written Code of Practice.

Peter Waugh

Senior Instructor

Canada Training Group

Creating a Code of Practice for Electrical Safety

Canada Training Group has developed experience and expertise in partnering with clients to build customized and worker focused Code of Practice for electrical safety. For more information please checkout .