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Workplace Electrical Safety: What do I need to Know?


Workplace Electrical Safety: What do I need to Know?

Electrical safety in offices and on job sites is often taken for granted by people who are not electricians. They figure since they’re not actually trying to wire anything, there’s no real safety risk in what they do around electrical equipment and outlets. However, anyone who works around electrical items has to be careful because a little carelessness can create problems for everyone. If you manage an office or worksite, ensure your workers know basic workplace electrical safety.

How Electricity Works When You’re Involved

Electricity travels on a series of wires, the energized wires providing paths for the current and, the neutral allows the electricity to return. The cables also contain a ground cable, this cable is if the electricity shorts to any metallic structure that could cause you to get shocked. This ground path (cable or conduit) returns current to the main power box, and most importantly allows the overcurrent protection devices (fuses and circuit breakers) to open the circuit and protect you.

However, if a human interrupts an of these circuits, you can become an electrical path. Electricity travels well through human bodies. That means that your workers are at risk of electrocution if they don’t handle wiring, cords, and other electrical items correctly.

Amps, Watts, Overloading, and Short-Circuiting

Your workers also have to be aware of how volts, amps, and watts interact. Each electrical device they use has an amperage requirement. This is listed on the panel that describes the electrical needs of the item, which is usually on the back or underside of the item. For example, you might see a label that says something runs on 12 amps (assume regular U.S. voltage of 120V). Circuits usually have a set supply, like 15 amps, 20 amps, and so on. So, anything plugged into an outlet that is on a 15-amp circuit can’t exceed 15 amps. In fact, it shouldn’t exceed about 13 or 14 amps because getting too close to the 15-amp limit can cause a short-circuit.

If an item lists watts, like an 1800-watt appliance, divide watts by voltage to get amps (1800/120=15 amps). Remember that anything on that circuit counts toward the total. So if you have a 40-watt light bulb running off a 15-amp circuit, you can’t plug in a 15-amp appliance into that same circuit, or you’ll overload the circuit and cause a breaker to reset.

Your workers also need to know that extension cords and surge suppressors have limits as well. Anything they plug in should be able to fit into the circuit nicely and not overload it, and anything they plug in should not draw more power than an extension cord or outlet can supply.

Reducing Electrocution Risk

Ways to reduce electrocution risk are fairly straightforward. Don’t touch frayed wires or insulation unless the item is unplugged, don’t spill water or other liquids on electrical cords and outlets, and don’t use staples or nails to hold cords down because those can pierce the insulation. Also, for workers who use ladders, the ladders should be used extremely carefully near power lines.

Benefits of Workplace Electrical Safety Training

Rather than you give your workers bits of information after a problem occurs, have everyone go through workplace electrical safety training. This ensures everyone has the same level of safety training and that all safety topics have been covered.

Electrical safety seminars from NTT Training help keep you and your workers safe. Also, they help prevent expensive and dangerous situations from occurring on the job site. If you’d like to arrange for a safety seminar, contact us. We provide seminars that are easy to understand, and if you have workers who need continuing education units in electrical topics, we can provide those, too. Give us a call to discuss your company’s needs.

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