To finish up our National Safety Month series on computer and office safety, we’ve saved the most important one for last – electrical safety. If you don’t pay attention to your electrics, damaged or ruined IT equipment will be the least of your worries.
Electric shock can be fatal, and over 1000 people in the US are killed each year by accidental electrocution, half of those at work. Over 100,000 are admitted to hospital with electrocution-related injuries. And electrical failure is the leading cause of office and home fires. A single worn power cord or overloaded outlet could destroy your entire premises – or worse!
We’ve already covered the dangers from trips and falls caused by electrical cables. Let’s look at some of the other things you need to be aware of.
- Don’t overload outlets: adaptors and extension cords are handy, but if you have more than one device per outlet, that’s usually an indication that you’re putting more strain on the system than it’s designed for. Overloaded outlets can blow fuses, overheat, and catch fire. It’s much safer to get additional outlets installed.
- Check for worn or frayed cords: any power cord that’s showing signs of wear needs to be replaced. Immediately, no excuses. Don’t just patch it up with some electrical tape and hope for the best. Check all your power cords monthly.
- Don’t put mats over power cords: putting something over a cord will reduce the risk of trips, but you’re in danger of wearing through the cord without anyone noticing. This can result in shocks or fires. Use proper trunking designed for the job, or route your cables so they don’t go across walkways.
- Be extremely careful with liquids: we all drink at our desks, and accidents do happen. When you have a spill involving electrics, make sure you know what to do. (See our information sheet on dealing with spills.)
- Take care opening up electrical equipment: always ensure that electrical equipment is disconnected before opening it up or putting your fingers inside it. Don’t poke around with metal objects such a screwdriver unless you know what you’re doing.
- Get rid of old equipment: don’t keep using old kettles, heaters, or fans if they don’t seem safe. Replace them with new ones that meet modern safety standards.
- Make a policy on personal equipment: these days, we all like to bring in mobile phone chargers, music players, and so on. Ensure that anyone who does so is aware of your electrical safety policy and that they’re not bringing in unsafe equipment.
- Get your power supply checked: get an electrician to give your home or office an annual health check. They’ll spot problems before they become serious, and they’ll be able to advise you on whether anything needs upgrading or replacing. If you need new wiring, new outlets, or anything else, it’s a worthwhile investment.
This short guide from Occupational Health & Safety Magazine is a great primer for electrical safety. Make sure you and your co-workers are familiar with it and know what to do.
If you are in any doubt at all about the safety of any piece of electrical equipment, call a qualified technician who can check it out and give you their experienced advice.
Well, that’s it for National Safety Month. You may be surprised how many hidden dangers there are in your office, even when you’re just working at a computer all day. We covered safety issues relating to chairs, keyboards, cables, monitors, and power, as well as mentioning the upcoming Florida law on texting and driving.
There’s a lot we can all do to prevent accidents, injuries, and long-term health damage, both in the workplace and at home. It’s rarely the big, obvious dangers that we need to worry about – it’s the little unexpected things that we’d never consider. It’s the responsibility of each one of us to ensure we’re keeping ourselves, our co-workers, and our family members safe. And if you run a business, don’t forget you’re probably liable for anything that happens on your premises.