Data centers are critical to the operation of many businesses, and ensuring their safety during operations and maintenance is crucial. While electrical safety and arc flash hazards are often at the forefront of concerns, there are other hazards that need attention as well. This article will cover various aspects of data center safety, including ergonomics, manual handling, temperature, work at heights, chemicals, noise, and hazardous energies.
Electrical Safety and Arc Flash Hazards
Electrical safety and arc flash hazards are essential considerations for data center safety, as the power supply starts with a connection to the main grid. Measures to mitigate these risks include:
- Arc Flash Studies and Labeling: Analyzing potential arc flash hazards and labeling equipment to inform workers of the risks.
- Breaker Settings and Remote Switching: Ensuring proper breaker settings and utilizing remote switching to minimize exposure to electrical hazards.
- Guarding and Electrical Safety Programs: Implementing robust electrical safety and maintenance programs, along with physical barriers to protect workers.
- Arc Flash Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Providing appropriate PPE to protect workers from arc flash hazards.
Ergonomic risk factors can lead to injuries and discomfort for workers. To address these risks:
- Identifying Ergonomic Risk Factors: Encourage employees to identify risk factors in their work environment, such as over-reaching, awkward postures, or excessive force.
- Control Measures and Training: Provide training on how to reduce ergonomic risks and implement control measures such as stretch and flex exercises, regular micro breaks, and maintaining proper posture.
Proper manual handling techniques can help prevent injuries. Some aids to consider include:
- Manual Handling Aids: Utilize trollies, hoists, and other equipment to help move and lift heavy items, reducing the strain on workers.
Temperature management is vital for both equipment and worker safety. To address this:
Heat Stress and Hydration: Ensure workers are aware of heat stress symptoms and the importance of staying hydrated.
Planning Work and Breaks: Schedule work and breaks in cooler areas away from the data center floor to help prevent heat stress.
Working at Heights
Working at heights in data centers can pose risks to employees. To mitigate these risks:
Maintenance of Equipment and Statutory Inspections: Ensure work at height equipment is in good condition and receives required inspections.
Training and Risk Assessment: Provide training for employees to work safely at heights and conduct risk assessments to determine the best safety measures.
Data centers utilize various chemicals that can pose hazards to workers. To address these concerns:
Types of Chemicals and Hazards: Ensure employees are aware of the specific hazards associated with each chemical they may encounter.
PPE Requirements and Usage: Provide appropriate PPE and train employees on its proper use.
Emergency Scenarios: Prepare for emergencies such as spills or splashes by having response plans in place.
Loud noise from equipment can cause hearing damage. To protect workers:
- Training and PPE Usage: Train employees in using appropriate PPE, such as earplugs or earmuffs, and ensure PPE is readily available.
- Warning Signage: Install warning signs in areas with high noise levels or on equipment that produces loud noise.
Before beginning any task, it’s crucial to identify and address all energy systems, including electrical, pneumatic, mechanical, hydraulic, chemical, and thermal energies. To manage these hazards:
Identification of Energy Systems: Use diagrams and walk-throughs to identify energy systems in the data center.
Isolation and Lockout-Tagout (LOTO) Procedures: Implement documented LOTO procedures to isolate and de-energize systems, and verify the effectiveness of isolation before starting work.
Keeping data centers safe during operations and maintenance requires attention to various safety risks, including electrical, ergonomic, manual handling, temperature, work at heights, chemical, noise, and hazardous energies. By implementing appropriate safety measures and training, data centers can ensure a safe and efficient work environment.
Safety is a core value of LotusWorks’ operations and it’s important to get the basics right such as Risk Assessment, Safety Training and the correct PPE for the task. Safety performance is seen as a principal KPI on all our team sites. Regular site EHS audits along with a workforce who are highly engaged from a safety perspective in raising safety observations through our “Good Catch” program safeguard our employees and drive the company’s safety culture.
Paul Bourke is Senior EHS Officer at LotusWorks
Arc flash hazards are the risk of electrical explosions caused by short circuits. They can be mitigated through arc flash studies, labeling, proper breaker settings, remote switching, guarding, electrical safety programs, and appropriate PPE.
Ergonomic risks can be reduced by identifying risk factors, providing training on control measures, and encouraging employees to maintain proper posture, take regular breaks, and report concerns.
Using manual handling aids such as trollies, hoists, and other equipment can help prevent injuries by reducing strain on workers.
Workers can protect their hearing by using appropriate PPE, such as earplugs or earmuffs, and following proper training on PPE usage. Warning signage should also be installed in high noise areas.
LOTO procedures help ensure that energy systems are properly isolated and de-energized before work begins, reducing the risk of accidents caused by unexpected energization or release of hazardous energy.