Making sure that a workplace is electrically safe is something all business owners should take steps to ensure. While it may not be the most pressing problem facing business owners, electrically unsafe workplaces are an issue in some parts of Australia. In a 12 year span from 2003 to 2015 over 140 workers died due to accidents involving electricity. That is over 10 deaths a year that could have been prevented if proper steps were taken to ensure that their workplaces were following proper electrical equipment safety procedures. Unsurprisingly, close to 50% of all these deaths occurred in the construction industry, where electrical equipment is used regularly. So, to give you an idea of how to make your workplace electrically safe, here are a few strategies you can adopt.
Each Australian state has its own set of rules and regulations surrounding electrical equipment in the workplace. The first step to ensuring that your workplace is safe is by knowing these regulations and making sure that they are followed. Here are the rules and regulations surrounding electrical equipment for New South Wales. As you can see there are two main points to keep in mind. First off, anything that gets electricity through an outlet is considered a piece of electrical equipment and must be regularly inspected by a licenced electrician. Secondly, electrical equipment should not be used in conditions that make it more likely that the electrical equipment will fail.
That last point is a really important one to remember. A lot of people misuse electrical equipment, which then leads to malfunctions or even more serious issues like electrical fires or arcing. For example, people tend not to store wires correctly, which leads to the wires becoming frayed or otherwise damaged, this then leads to people getting electrocuted or electrical fires. Other people make use of extension cords for extended periods of time (they are only meant to be used temporarily) which again can lead to a variety of electrical dangers, including electrical fires.
So, if you want to prevent electrical injuries or deaths in the workplace, get regular inspections done and make sure you and your employees are using electrical appliances safely. While you can do your own inspections (and you certainly should be doing so) an untrained person can only detect so many problems on their own. It is important that you get a professional to also do inspections, as they are better able to determine potential electrical dangers in the workplace.
When an electrical appliance malfunctions, the first thing you will want to do is turn off the power to the appliance or unplug it. A lot of electrical injuries or death can occur because employees may not know how to quickly shut off an appliance or where to go to disconnect it from the power supply. So, to get around this issue you should do a couple of things. First off, if you are using an electrical appliance that gets power from an outlet, make sure that the appliance is always close to the outlet that it is connected to. Do not rely on extension cords, both because they are not meant to be used constantly and because in a hurry, an employee will have to follow the extension cord to disconnect the appliance from the outlet. If you find you do not have outlets in your workplace to do this, then it is heavily recommended that you get some more outlets installed in your workplace. Also, make sure that any off switches on the appliance are easily identifiable by other employees.
GFCIs, which is short for ground fault circuit interrupters, are special kinds of outlets that are designed with electrical safety in mind. A GFCI outlet will monitor the electrical current going through it. If the outlet detects a disturbance in the electrical current, it will immediately shut off the power coming from the outlet. A good GFCI will be extremely accurate and will be able to detect even the smallest changes in the electrical current. To give you an example of a situation where a GFCI could save a life, think of a hypothetical situation where an employee goes to use a power tool. But, the power tool malfunctions for some reason and the power tool is about to shock the employee. A GFCI would detect the change in current and cut off power before the employee was hurt.
If an appliance has been damaged or you suspect it has been damaged (for example, because it makes strange noises when used) then it should not be used under any circumstances until a licenced electrician has said it is safe to use or the appliance has been replaced completely. This also applies for appliances that work fine, but have damaged electrical cords or wires. You see this all the time, people just throw some duct tape over a damaged cord and continue using an appliance. That is extremely dangerous.
Another important piece of advice is to avoid overload electrical outlets. Often times, businesses, especially ones in smaller buildings, tend to plug all their electrical appliances into one or two outlets using surge protectors, extension cords, or power bars. This is convenient, but also very dangerous. By overloading the outlet like this, you risk not only overloading the circuit and tripping the breaker, but you also risk damaging the outlet. Damaged outlets are a great way of causing both electrical shocks and electrical fires.
No one wants to work in a workplace where they risk being injured or even killed by electrical hazards. So, it is important that everyone in the workplace take the steps to ensure that the workplace is electrically safe. These are just a few tips, if you want more tips, government sites often have huge lists of tips and strategies for preventing electrical emergencies in the workplace.