Learn the basics of safe generator use to avoid lighting yourself up instead of the building

Key Takeaways:

  • Power outages can strike any time and are happening more often
  • Proper maintenance, grounding, and bonding are key to generator safety
  • Selecting the right generator type can prevent overloading
  • Generator fuel must be handled with care and awareness
  • Talk to the power pros if you’re in any doubt about generator safety

Having a backup generator can literally be a lifesaver. They can also be a one-way ticket to the emergency room. This leaves businesses with two choices ahead of the next outage: Learn how to use one before the power goes down so fumble around dangerously trying to make things work in the heat of an emergency.

There are some best practices to follow to encourage safe generator use and ensure your backup performs harmlessly when the time comes. This is a two-part process with smart maintenance being the first step (especially if you’re in a state that takes the kind of hammering Florida does).

Step two is having clear knowledge on the dos and don’ts around generators when the grid goes gaga, and believe us, it will. Repeated power outages are happening more frequently due to high demand, excavation work, traffic accidents, and even wildlife. Let’s make sure your workplace keeps a level head when the lights go out.

What’s the big risk with generators?

Aside from the sheer number of kilowatts just looking for a nice pair of shoes to ground themselves in, generators can be sitting ducks for bad weather. This frequently involves heavy rain and/or floods. Units should never be touched when they (or you, for that matter) are wet.

Safe generator use is rooted in knowing how to properly ground and bond a backup generator and associated transfer switches to avoid any unnecessary shocks. Here’s how that basically works:

  • Understand the term “grounded”: This can be literal in the case of the generator being in direct contact with the earth. It can also refer to the generator’s contact with the frame it’s housed in or the platform it sits on. Generators can be grounded via compensated, hybrid, or high impedance methods.
  • Bonded parts must be non-current carrying: These include the generator’s engine, fuel tank, power receptacles, and housing, which must be safely fixed to the frame.
  • Use a grounding rod: A grounding rod will effectively compensate if the above conditions don’t exist. This helps reduce melting and burning of electrical equipment and reduces the risk of electrocution.

Grounding and bonding are jobs for electrical professionals well-versed on Article 250 of the National Electrical Code. These experts have the experience and equipment necessary to test the integrity of your backup generator for any anomalies in the ohmic resistance, which should be constant and as near to zero as possible.

Safe generator use takes the right generator type

Choosing the right generator size for your business’ power requirements is a good way to avoid overloading it, as is only running equipment with a total power consumption lower than the unit can provide.

Commercial power professionals can help you plug that generator into your electrical system to avoid potentially deadly feedback into the surrounding power lines. This can be a problem for the premises the generator is on, and you may end up electrocuting repair personnel working miles away on compromised lines.

Safety through proper positioning and material storage

Some degree of environmental exposure is inevitable since your commercial generator will most likely be outside. Electrical experts can help you find the optimally safe position where the unit is least likely to be hit hard by water, winds, or debris. It’s also good planning to keep foot traffic zones to and from the generator as obstruction-free as possible.

Next, think about the items that may be in close proximity to the generator. Are they combustible? Guess what happens when the sparks start flying. Generators can overheat and catch fire without maintenance and vigilance, so store anything flammable far away and keep an extinguisher in the vicinity of the unit.

Don’t forget how dangerous generator fuel can be

Diesel, propane, gasoline, or natural gas may be the power source for your backup generator. Whichever one you use, make sure the unit is deactivated and has cooled off before adding new juice. Fuels are flammable, of course, so just imagine what would happen if you’re holding a gasoline can that’s being poured onto a blazing hot generator.

Users should always be careful around them to avoid the additional risk of toxic fumes and potential poisoning. Generators may sit outside, but don’t think you have to be standing next to one to get gassed. Emissions can also be dangerous for any staff member or customer inside your business. This is why it’s recommended to position backup generators at least 20 feet away from vents, doors, and windows where fumes could enter and be breathed in.

Lastly, don’t let fuel that’s been sitting around for too long let you down. Diesel and gasoline degrade over time, and if the fuel has been sitting for a while, it may no longer be to get your backup generator started. Having your generator regularly serviced will keep you informed about how your current oil reserves are doing.

Speak to the experts to stay safe

Safe generator use quickly becomes second nature when you have advice you’re confident in. A few words with the right electrical team can provide you with a generator safety guide that will keep the unit healthy along with every person and piece of equipment in its vicinity.

Universal Electrical Services is your power pros when it comes to all aspects of commercial generators. Our expertise ranges from repairs and maintenance to million-dollar projects. We’re familiar with generators of every model and make and have provided reliable site-specific solutions for a wide variety of industries. Just get in touch if you need any help or advice and we’ll be with you in a flash!