Electrical Hazards: 10 Ways to Keep Your Workplace Safe
Avoiding electrical hazards requires a combination of awareness and attention to detail.
Although it's generally safe and reliable, electricity can be dangerous if treated improperly, exposing employees and building occupants to electrical shock, electrocution, fires and explosions. Consider the following safety measures when working with or near powered equipment, or when upgrading your facility.
Ensure that all powered devices and equipment include a certification mark from a nationally recognized testing organization, such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL). These marks indicate that the equipment has been tested for safe use.
Make sure all machines and other powered equipment are properly grounded and have a main disconnect.
Use extension cords only when necessary and on a temporary basis. The wire size of an extension cord should be the same size — or larger — than the cord being extended. If an extension cord feels warm to the touch, discontinue use.
Unplug powered equipment before inspection or repair.
Avoid overloading circuits. Watch for signs of electrical problems, such as dimming lights, discoloration around outlets and frequent circuit breaker trips.
Use ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection in restrooms, kitchens or any environment that is wet or damp.
Avoid the use of metal ladders near any energized parts or equipment, or if they may come into contact with powered circuits.
Inspect equipment and appliances for frayed cords, broken plugs and cracked or broken housings. Repair or replace any damaged components.
Maintain all electrical tools and equipment according to manufacturer's recommendations and use appropriate protective gear.
Check for frayed or exposed wiring, cracked outlet covers and other signs of potential electrical safety hazards and have them repaired by a qualified electrician.
Although these tips serve as a general overview of the issues you may encounter, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides requirements and detailed guidelines on working safely with electricity. See also the Informative Annex E Electrical Safety Program in NFPA 70E® Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace which outlines typical principles, controls and procedures for an electrical safety program. In addition, follow local building and fire codes regarding electrical safety when upgrading or remodeling your facility.
Avoiding electrical hazards requires a combination of common sense, awareness and attention to good safety practices. If you suspect a problem, power down equipment and contact a qualified electrician or electrical engineer.
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