Most office environments are considered low-risk in terms of electrical hazards. But that doesn’t mean you should take safety for granted. Just because you’re not working on a factory floor with high-voltage equipment or are operating large machinery outdoors near power lines, don’t assume electrical hazards can’t be present.
“Just as at home, you need to keep your nose in the wind and eyes open,” said Chris Gearld, Safety Director at Hendricks Power. “A business setting should be up to code. But we all know mistakes happen, or shortcuts, unfortunately, get taken. No matter where you work, take account of your surroundings. Report things that make you go ‘hmmmm.’ Don’t assume maintenance or management must already know about an issue you see and that everything must be OK.”
Hazards and peculiar things office workers should keep watch for include:
- Electrical cables that are frayed, loose, or have exposed wires.
- Outlets that are worn and won’t hold plugs snugly.
- Electrical equipment that gives off a strange odor.
- Overheating equipment (those not heated by normal operation). Beware of discolored plastic casings on the equipment or discolored outlet covers.
- Overloaded outlets or extension cords.
- Equipment that is not working properly.
Any faulty equipment, wiring, plugs, etc., should be removed from use immediately and reported to your supervisor or whoever is in charge. Outlets should not be overloaded, so either plug equipment elsewhere or tell your supervisor, who should minimize the need for overloading them.
The office may need to have a licensed electrician install additional outlets and circuits to reduce overloading or the need to rely heavily on extension cords.
To minimize hazards:
- Switch off and unplug appliances when they are not in use and before cleaning.
- Turn off all appliances at the end of the day.
- Do not force a plug into an outlet if it does not fit.
- Do not run electrical cords through high-traffic areas, under carpets or across doorways.
- Make sure the electrical load is not too much for any circuit, even when using a surge protector.