Your guide to creating safer, smarter care sites, including best practices and selecting reliable contractors.

Key Takeaways:

  • Hospitals face heightened electrical risks
  • Regulatory awareness and experienced contractors can help create hazard plans
  • Training and best practices help staff create safer environments

Fires, shocks, burns, and even deaths are what healthcare sites’ staff, patients, or visitors could suffer due to poor electrical safety. Managing them requires constant awareness of electrical regulations and best practices — a challenge for hardworking staff.

It’s nonetheless crucial that healthcare workers identify electrical situations that could pose a risk to people’s safety or disrupt critical medical services. This article will simplify the essential basics to help your facility mitigate electrical hazards, learn effective risk management strategies while making the site’s power sources safer and more reliable.

Understanding electrical hazards in healthcare settings

Overloading circuits and medical grade power strips. Using frayed cords or wires connected to site-owned equipment or personal hardware. These are just two common electrical hazards in healthcare environments. Some others:

  • Circuit failure
  • Touching electrical equipment or power sources with wet hands
  • Use of damaged wall sockets
  • Failure to quickly address spills on or near electrical sources
  • Mismanaging electromagnetic interference (an electrical hazard which could negatively impact equipment performance)
  • Insufficient preparation for power grid failures

It’s important that staff recognize these risks to their own safety, and that of patients and visitors. This basic awareness should be complemented by some best practices.

Best practices for electrical safety in healthcare facilities

Healthcare settings can benefit greatly from several helpful steps. Installing surge protectors, numerous fire alarms and extinguishers, and arranging regular electrical inspections, maintenance, and testing help prevent electrical risks.

Proper grounding is also critical for electrical safety. Installing ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) is a best practice. These fast-acting circuit breakers instantly detect electrical faults and interrupt them to lower the chances of electric shocks and electrocution (the former causes injury; the latter kills).

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that all electrical equipment in a healthcare facility be either NRTL tested or factory certified. Healthcare staff responsible for ordering or accepting new equipment into the site should check that it has been tested or certified to required standards. Even so, the functioning of all electrical equipment should be regularly inspected by qualified professionals.

Drafting regular inspection and safety compliance plans starts with selecting a reliable contractor. Vital qualifications include experience, medical sector knowledge, and regulatory awareness.

Training and awareness for healthcare staff

The role of training is key in promoting electrical safety awareness among healthcare providers. For example, all medical facilities must have a reliable and well-maintained secondary power source of, per Article 517 of NFPA 70. This helps a site stay operational independent of the grid, and it usually involves one or more powerful commercial generators.

In these cases, all healthcare staff should be familiar with safe generator practices like fuel use, safe storage of materials, and organizing foot traffic zones for clear generator access. Signage and labels are also effective awareness aids which warn staff if they’re in an electrical hazard area and/or using electrically hazardous equipment.

Safety drills should be conducted regularly to keep staff responsive to emergency protocols. Implementing ongoing education programs can keep staff current with evolving safety procedures and how to safely operate and manage electrical equipment.

Risk assessment and management in electrical systems

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the Joint Commission, and OSHA are key organizations in setting guidelines and standards for safe electrical installations, operation, and maintenance. It’s knowledge of their regulations which makes accurate risk assessment possible so make sure any contractors you hire are familiar with these rules and guidelines.

Electrical teams experienced with healthcare facilities can conduct thorough risk assessments to discover potential dangers. Your contractor should be familiar with the following:

  • NFPA 99: Health Care Facilities Code (2024)
  • NFPA 70: National Electrical Code (general electrical safety, including healthcare)
  • OSHA 29 CFR 1910.303 (general safety, healthcare included)
  • OSHA 29 CFR 1910.304 (comprehensive, healthcare-centric steps)
  • EC.02.05.01 (a Joint Commission standard covering emergency backup power and electrical systems management)
  • EC.02.05.09 (regular testing and maintenance standards for backup power)

These steps will help establish a reliable electrical risk assessment and management plan.

Advanced technologies for electrical safety

Emerging and evolving technologies and tools enhance electrical safety in healthcare by boosting contractors’ effectiveness. For example, today’s multimeters (so called because they can take electrical readings from multiple sources) can measure voltage, current, and resistance to pinpoint accuracy. 

Another key development is circuit breakers’ rapid improvement. In the past, electricians would test each circuit one by one to discover which ones had died. This was time-consuming and labor-intensive in healthcare facilities, where circuits are abundant. Today’s models make it much easier to quickly locate faulty circuits and fuses and make repairs without interrupting hospital services!

Another non-interruptive tool in the modern contractor’s bag is the partial discharge (PD) sensor. PD is a very common electrical problem caused by faulty insulation in medium- to high-voltage devices. PD sensors are placed near cables to give virtual readings that reveal what repairs (if any) the cables might need.

Contact UES for safer healthcare

Staying safer from electrical hazards requires four practices: regulatory compliance, training and awareness, proper installation and use, and regular maintenance. Combine these with an ongoing commitment to stay current on safety procedures and your site will be doing all it can for the wellbeing of patients and staff.

UES shares a commitment to responsible healthcare. In 2024, our company celebrates 25 years in business, and we’ve been helping the healthcare sector meet its electrical needs since the beginning. 

Call 954-792-5444 or complete our contact form for a free quote!