While many homeowners take great care with electrical safety around their homes, it’s easy for those same folks to let their guard down in the workplace. Unless you’re the building superintendent, in charge of maintenance, or the office handyman, it’s easy to think of electrical safety as “someone else’s job.”
In reality, everyone in the workplace should view electrical safety as their responsibility. Electrical hazards cause more than 300 deaths and 4,000 injuries in the workplace each year. “Keeping the workplace safe takes vigilance on everyone’s part,” explained Rick Coons, CEO of Indiana Electric Cooperatives. “Dangers can hide under desks, behind copiers, under rugs. It takes everyone’s involvement to keep the workplace safe.”
In many workplaces, there’s never an outlet where it’s needed. Solution: extension cords, right? Although they can be used temporarily, the safest permanent solution involves having a licensed electrician install an outlet where it’s needed. Also keep these tips in mind:
- Never use cords with cuts, cracks, or exposed wiring. And covering the wires with tape is not a safe solution.
- Secure cords under cord covers if they cross a walkway. Never use nails, tacks, or staples, or cover with a rug.
- Use side-loading adaptors in outlets behind shelves and cabinets. Otherwise, hazardous pressure is placed on the cord and plug.
- Never overload a circuit with too many adaptors or plugstrips.
In any workplace situation where electricity is used near water, a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet should be used. These outlets, equipped with test and reset buttons, interrupt the flow of electricity if it deviates from its path.
When cold weather bears down on us, the use of space heaters is a common solution to a chilly workplace. Much like extension cords, view these as a temporary solution. An estimated 1,500 fire-related injuries and deaths are attributed to space heaters each year. To keep your workplace safe, consider these tips:
- Keep space heaters at least three feet from combustible materials.
- Do not use extension cords with space heaters.
- Avoid using a space heater with a damaged cord.
- Keep heaters on a flat, level surface.
- Avoid the use of a space heater in a damp area.
For everyone’s safety, ensure that all electrical equipment in your workplace bears the mark of an independent testing laboratory like UL. And never underestimate the power of your senses. If a piece of equipment looks, sounds, or smells odd, or feels hot, unplug it and call a professional.
If an accident occurs in the workplace, call 911 immediately. Never attempt first aid if you suspect the victim has come in contact with electricity. Doing so could put yourself and others in danger.
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Electrical Safety Foundation International
Occupational Safety and Health Administration