Electrical hazards at work and how to prevent them
Our personal and professional lives would not be the same without electricity. Electrical equipment is one of the most important parts of the workplace, but it can also be one of the largest risks if used improperly. Electrical hazards at work account for a large percentage of accidents when equipment isn’t in working order. Read on for some common electrical hazards and how to avoid them.
The office kitchen is a place of relaxation and playful banter. However, regardless of whether your office has a microwave, oven, toaster or more, appliances can pose a major risk if not well maintained. Throughout the day, periodically check that all appliances, especially those with open heating surfaces such as hot plates or toasters, are turned off when not in use. Make sure no flammable materials like paper towels or dishtowels are stored near hot surfaces. Be mindful as well of appliances that get a lot of attention in the morning, such as the coffeemaker, but go neglected as the day wears on. Machines without an automatic shut-off function can continually heat a glass carafe, burning away residual coffee and creating both a bad smell and dangerous situation when it comes time to clean up.
Surge protectors are great devices we rely on to protect our computers and gadgets from electrical damage. They do not prevent us, however, from overloading the electrical circuit. If the underside of your desk or the back of your server room is an octopus tangle of cords, look for different ways to arrange the plugs. Use a second surge protector if necessary. Keep everything free of dust and consider having additional outlets installed to protect your circuits.
All too often, we plug in a device and forget about it. When was the last time you checked the plug on your floor lamp? What about for your computer monitor? Plugs that become cracked and worn pose multiple hazards – they can cause fires, shock unsuspecting workers and overload circuits. Melted plastic can create a smoky, disgusting mess that can damage carpet and nearby appliances. Be sure to check all electrical cords and plugs monthly to ensure they are in good, working condition and free of dust. Repair or replace those with cracks and tears to keep your equipment, coworkers and yourself safe.
This may seem secondary to the aforementioned issues, but poorly placed plugs and extension cords can pose many electrical hazards. Never run an extension cord across a walkway or heavily trafficked area – this could cause falls, damage to the cord and loss of power that could wipe out important work. Similarly, keep cords and flammable materials away from heat sources. If necessary, hire an electrician to install additional outlets where they are needed instead of running cords all over the workplace. The cost of professional assistance is small compared to potential damage and repairs in your workplace.
You depend on electrical equipment to get your job done, whether switching on your desk lamp, computer or heating up food for lunch. Avoid hazards in the workplace by using common sense and vigilance to prevent damaging accidents from happening.