How to keep your team safe and leave the risky stuff to the experts.
- Every workplace runs an electrical risk
- Damaging effects on personnel can be short-lived, long-term, or deadly
- Following operational safety standards is essential
- Creating a workplace electrical awareness program is key to success
It’s up to every employer which one they want to give their staff – a quick, clear crash course or a short, sharp shock. Alongside keeping the workplace cool and being generator smart, creating an electrical awareness and safety plan is crucial in protecting your people and your productivity.
Electrical accidents can happen for a few reasons if there’s no plan in place. Two of the most common are staff not recognizing danger signs and untrained employees deciding to play power pro. Frazzled equipment is the least of your workplace worries; you may also lose valuable data or have a team member physically harmed.
Some shocking facts about workplace electricity
Collectively, there were 126 workplace deaths last year alone due to electricity. Electrical danger exists at every job and not just the most hazardous ones like construction and utilities. Those who survive their charged encounters can suffer terrible short- and long-term effects, some of which include:
- Hearing loss
- Cardiac arrest and organ damage
- Muscular spasms
- Nerve and neurological damage
Scary stuff, right? Getting real about electrical risk can save lives and also save employers serious cash. Affected workers could be entitled to worker’s compensation and loss of income, may bring a personal injury case, or may leave behind a wrongful death lawsuit from their loved ones.
These aren’t always isolated cases of single employees being hurt, either. A single electrical incident could cause a workplace explosion and harm multiple people.
The most common electrical dangers
Electrical accidents can happen no matter how smart your team is. Everybody will be a lot more confident, however, when you score an A-plus in the “preventable” category. Be on guard for:
- Sloppy cord etiquette: Listen closely and you’ll hear that overloaded power strip you’ve plugged 108 appliances into begging for mercy. Don’t overcrowd strips and you’ll dramatically reduce the chances of an electrical overload and all the hazards it creates.
- Worn-out wire casings: This isn’t hard to spot and can be found in fuse boxes and at both ends of a power cord. Any visible wires on a device are a red flag that electric shock isn’t far away.
- Ungrounded equipment: Electricity doesn’t really want to end up in the soles of your shoes — it’s only trying to reach the ground. We don’t recommend getting in its way. Instead, let something else do it and you’ll avoid contributing to the hundreds of millions of dollars in damages that result from bad grounding. We could also start talking about polarized flows of positively and negatively charged electrons, but it’s quicker just to call us to get the job done.
- Moist, waterlogged, or water-adjacent locations: Water and electricity go together like Godzilla and Tokyo. Make sure you don’t have any leaks anywhere near electrical wiring and equipment. Inspect every room from top to bottom and double-check your insulation is in good condition. Oh, and think twice about keeping the water cooler next to a power outlet.
- Outside power lines: What could go wrong here? They’re strung way above the workplace out of reach of anybody inside. If only they stayed there. Powerfully bad weather — like the kind we get regularly here in Florida — can damage power lines, rip away insulation, and cause lines to droop dangerously close to buildings. They may even be ripped out of the ground entirely and stay live nearby. Never get near a power line unless you’re a professional there to work on it.
This can be a lot to take in at first. That’s why it all has to be written down clearly, comprehensively, and beefed up with a few eye-catching visual aids that will draw an employee’s attention where it needs to be.
Drafting a detailed workplace electricity plan
Educating your workforce is the first step. This in-depth OSHA primer puts almost everything they need to know into one handy resource. This can then be summarized into handouts that every employee can keep and complemented with posters (like these colorful examples) to emphasize the message around the workplace.
Make it clear that anyone lacking electrical expertise should never attempt any kind of repair or alteration. Any electrical danger signs should be reported immediately to a manager or designated safety officer, and no risky cables or equipment should be tried without an electrical professional’s appraisal.
All junction boxes, distribution panels, switches, etc., should be enclosed and accessible only to qualified personnel to prevent unintended physical contact and reduce the effects of moisture. Erect barriers around potentially dangerous electrical areas and clearly label them with wall signs.
Dress for success
Anyone permitted to enter high voltage areas or work with electrical sources should always wear personal protective equipment (PPE). This should consist of insulated tools and clothing (like non-conductive gloves and boots) that are electrically rated plus protective eyewear and facial equipment. The flooring in high voltage areas will need a makeover too; it should be fitted with non-conductive electrical matting.
Regular electrical inspections should be scheduled with experienced technicians who’ll inspect equipment old and new as well as the workspace itself for any actual or potential risks. They’ll also let you know if you’re complying with the necessary regulations and codes to stay safe and in business. Speak to a licensed professional to get a timeframe on how regularly these inspections should be conducted for your workplace.
Speak to Florida’s electrical experts with any questions
Universal Electrical Services has been Florida’s power pros for more than 20 years. We’ve handled electrical jobs big and small for clients in many different industries, and we can help with any questions you have about staying safe around electricity. Visit our contact page if you need advice, electrical installation, or maintenance assistance!