Safety at home and in the workplace starts with personal education. Whether you’re a homeowner or a construction foreman, it’s essential to identify and mitigate the risks in your environment.
We’ve covered safety in several scenarios, but electrical safety is something that plays a part in all of them.
Electricity is notoriously dangerous.
Electricity is an incredibly powerful force—it’s a miracle of the modern age, and plays a part in all of our daily lives. But it has the power to be extremely dangerous if not treated with the proper level of respect.
Many people don’t consider the level of electricity in their household to be as dangerous as the levels that commonly occur at large industrial worksites. In reality, a broken lightbulb or faulty wire has enough power to stop your heart. A small lamp or power tool that isn’t functioning correctly has the same killing capability as any other source of electricity.
While it’s true that a higher voltage can do more damage, electrical hazards should be treated with the same gravity regardless of where they occur. According to a report by the CDC, an average of 411 people die every year in the U.S. from electrocution. Thousands experience electrical shocks, and many end up visiting the hospital to treat electrical burns and aftereffects.
Knowing how to assess and mitigate the risks associated with electricity is essential in any setting. Keep reading to learn more about electrical safety!
These electrical safety tips can help.
The following electrical safety tips are great for both your home and your business:
Respect outlet capabilities.
Most of us have seen those cringeworthy overloaded outlets that scream “fire hazard!” However, people continue to overload their outlets convincing themselves that they have some leeway. In reality, half of U.S. homes are more than 30 years old, meaning that it may not be able to handle even a normal electrical load.
The same can be said for older commercial buildings. Always have a professional inspect the electrical system to make sure that it’s up to code prior to plugging anything in. Inspections are usually done as a part of the initial property inspection. If an outlet isn’t capable of handling even the average wattage, then it needs to be updated. If left alone, heavy equipment or even your high-tech entertainment system can trip the electrical circuit breaker or lead to an electrical fire.
We also have a crucial tip for parents of young children. Put safety caps on all unused electrical outlets! Little ones like to poke things into small holes.
Know how to tell if something is grounded.
Grounding allows a rogue electric current to run into the ground instead of causing problems in your home or at your worksite. To check for grounding, look for that third hole in the bottom of your electrical outlets. If you still aren’t sure, you can check for the presence of copper wires attached to a central location in your main electrical box.
Before starting work at any location, check for grounding and identify any areas that may pose an electrical risk. When in doubt, contact a professional.
Always notify workers of live wires.
As a foreman, supervisor, or property owner, you have a legal and moral obligation to the safety of anyone working for you. Always inspect the property or area with a professional before asking anyone to start a project or their workday. If there are any exposed live wires, they need to be clearly marked, and workers should be aware of electrical safety procedures.
Even confident electricians take additional precautions when working in an area that may be unstable. If there’s a chance of electrocution or workers need to do something in that area, make sure that the electricity to that wire is cut off.
Listen for warning sounds.
You shouldn’t be able to hear electricity. If you hear a hum or a strange noise when you plug things in, then it may indicate that there’s an electrical problem. If you have an electrician employed, it’s a good idea to have them listen and decide how to approach the problem.
If the issue is happening at your personal property, unplug all power cords from that outlet (as long as you can do so safely) and call in a professional. It may also be a good idea to cut electricity to that part of your home or business until you can get it looked at.
Properly inspect equipment.
Those orange or yellow “last inspected” tags on your heavy equipment aren’t there for decoration! As a rule of thumb, you should be giving the equipment a cursory inspection prior to each use.
An in-depth electrical inspection should occur once a year at the very least; many manufacturers recommend more frequent professional inspections. These should always be noted to prevent incidents and for insurance purposes.
If the cord or area is wet, don’t touch them!
We’ve touched on this before, but it can’t be emphasized enough. Always avoid plugging things in or working in areas where outlets are exposed to any kind of moisture. Water conducts electricity very easily, and all it takes is one frayed wire to create an incredibly hazardous situation. Pay attention to the location of leaks, and include electrical safety precautions when developing spill response procedures.
Warning signs of an electrical problem.
It’s essential to note of any electrical warning signs. Knowing what to look for can prevent tragedy and create a safer environment at every level. If you or your workers notice any of the following, call in a professional electrician immediately:
Exposed or frayed wires
Standing water or moisture gathered around outlets
A strong odor of smoke or burning plastic
Visible smoke or flames
A hum or whine when plugging electrical appliances in
Outlets clogged by dust or covered
Remember to keep an inspected fire extinguisher on hand, and always include electrical precautions in safety training sessions.
Safety management systems can help track hazards.
Safety management software is proving its usefulness across multiple industries and in different settings. It can help track hazards and establish appropriate procedures to ensure safety around electrical equipment in many different contexts.
If you have questions or would like more information on ways to create a safer workplace, reach out to the experts at SafetyTek. You can also find us on social media, or join the conversation below!