Office Electrical Safety - Article describing hazards and minimization of workplace electrical accidents and injury including electrical shock, ungrounded equipment, overloaded outlets, electrical shorts, short circuit, electrical flashover. Adjustable Bed, Memory Foam Mattress, Beds and Pillows - Natural Back Pain Relief Products
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Office Electrical Safety



Electricity is essential to the operations of a modern automated officeas a source of power. Electrical equipment used in an office is potentiallyhazardous and can cause serious shock and burn injuries if improperly usedor maintained.

Electricity travels through electrical conductors which may be in theform of wires or parts of the human body. Most metals and moist skin offervery little resistance to the flow of electrical current and can easilyconduct electricity. Other substances such as dry wood, porcelain, orpottery offer a high resistance and can be used to prevent the flow ofelectrical current. If a part of the body comes in contact with theelectrical circuit, a shock will occur. The electrical current will enterthe body at one point and leave at another. The passage of electricitythrough the body can cause great pain, burns, destruction of tissue, nerves,and muscles and even death. Factors influencing the effects of electricalshock include the type of current, voltage, resistance, amperage, pathwaythrough body, and the duration of contact. The longer the current flowsthrough the body, the more serious the injury. Injuries are less severe whenthe current does not pass through or near nerve centers and vital organs.Electrical accidents usually occur as a result of faulty or defectiveequipment, unsafe installation, or misuse of equipment on the part of officeworkers.

Types of electrical hazards found in an office environment include thefollowing:

Ungrounded Equipment

Grounding is a method of protecting employees from electric shock. Bygrounding an electrical system, a low-resistance path to earth through aground connection is intentionally created. When properly done, this pathoffers sufficiently low resistance and has sufficient current-carryingcapacity to prevent the build-up of hazardous voltages. Most fixed equipmentsuch as large, stationary machines must be grounded. Cord and plug connectedequipment must be grounded if it is located in hazardous or wet locations,if operated at more than 150 volts to ground, or if it is of a certain typeof equipment (such as refrigerators and air conditioners). Smaller officeequipment, such as typewriters and coffee pots, would generally not fallinto these categories and therefore would not have to be grounded. Howevermuch of the newer office equipment is manufactured with grounded plugs as aprecaution (three prong plugs). In such cases, the equipment should be usedin accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. In any case, neverremove the third (grounding) prong from any three-prong piece of equipment.

Overloaded Outlets

Insufficient or overloading of electrical outlets should be avoided. Asufficient number of outlets will eliminate the need for extension cords.Overloading electrical circuits and extension cords can result in a fire.Floor mounted outlets should be carefully placed to prevent trippinghazards.

Unsafe/Non-Approved Equipment

The use of poorly maintained or unsafe, poor quality, non-approved (bynational testing laboratory) coffee makers, radios, lamps, etc. (oftenprovided by or used by employees) should be discarded. Such appliances candevelop electrical shorts creating fire and/or shock hazards. Equipment andcords should be inspected regularly, and a qualified individual should makerepairs.

When the outer jacket of a cord is damaged, the cord may no longer bewater-resistant. The insulation can absorb moisture, which may then resultin a short circuit or excessive current leakage to ground. If wires areexposed, they may cause a shock to a worker who contacts them. These cordsshould be replaced. Electric cords should be examined on a routine basis forfraying and exposed wiring.

Improper Placement of Cords

A cord should not be pulled or dragged over nails, hooks, or other sharpobjects that may cause cuts in the insulation. In addition, cords shouldnever be placed on radiators, steam pipes, walls, and windows. Particularattention should be placed on connections behind furniture, since files andbookcases may be pushed tightly against electric outlets, severely bendingthe cord at the plug.

Electrical Cords across Walkways and Work Areas

An adequate number of outlet sockets should be provided. Extension cordsshould only be used in situations where fixed wiring is not feasible.However, if it is necessary to use an extension cord, never run it acrosswalkways or aisles due to the potential tripping hazard. If you must run acord across a walkway, either tape it down or purchase a cord runner.

Unquarded Live Parts

Wall receptacles should be designed and installed so that nocurrent-carrying parts will be exposed, and outlet plates should be kepttight to eliminate the possibility of shock.

Pulling Plugs to Shut Off Power

Switches to turn on and off equipment should be provided, either in theequipment or in the cords, so that it is not necessary to pull the plugs toshut off the power. To remove a plug from an outlet, take a firm grip on andpull the plug itself. Never pull a plug out by the cord.

Working on "Live Equipment"

Disconnect electrical machines before cleaning, adjusting, or applyingflammable solutions. If a guard is removed to clean or repair parts, replaceit before testing the equipment and returning the machine to service.

Blocking Electrical Panel Doors

If an electrical malfunction should occur, the panel door, and anything else in front of the door will become very hot. Electrical panel doors should always be kept closed, to prevent "electrical flashover" in the event of an electrical malfunction.

Used with permission of Office of Health and Safety,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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Page Modified Mon Mar 17 10:17:49 CDT 2008
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