With few exceptions, power sources must be shut down at data centers when electrical work is being done on the system.

Staff working on the electrical components of health care facility data centers need to make sure the system is disconnected from its power source and for critical reasons.

The most obvious reason is that working on almost any electrical system that is still operating, or energized, runs the risk of serious injury or death.

The second reason is that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) appears to be taking a new approach to enforcement of that work and has issued citations and warnings in recent months, according to the OSHA Group at the law firm Epstein Becker Green. The firm has been monitoring OSHA's activity in this area.

OSHA's electrical safety standard 29 CFR 1910.333 generally requires employers to disconnect the power source and lock out electrical supply to a circuit before work can be performed nearby. However, the OSHA standard includes an exception that says a system and its power source can remain operational because of equipment design or operational limitations, also known as the "infeasibility" exception.

Data center operators historically have relied on the exceptions to continue working on electrical panels while a system is still operating to avoid shutting down equipment. But OSHA actions over the past couple of years indicate it is paying closer attention to the standard requiring data centers to be shut down while electrical work is performed, according to a report by the law firm.

In one case OSHA cited a large financial services company and its property management firm for allegedly exposing workers to electrical hazards at a data center. OSHA found that the company's data center policy required electricians employed by its property manager to perform work in electrical panels in operation for computer equipment without first shutting down the panels.

An OSHA spokesperson says there is no change in enforcement of the standard.