Electrical Safety Around the Office
Electrical safety is just as important in offices as it is in other workplace environments. The risks caused by equipment such as photocopiers, fax machines, computers and even kettles, vacuum cleaners, heaters, fans, and desk lamps is low compared to most other workplace hazards, but if there is no inspection or maintenance procedure in place there is a greater chance the equipment could become dangerous. Guelph Hydro recommends that every office has a safety procedure in place when it comes to electricity.
Electrical safety in the office
A nominated and trained person or team should be designated to carry out visual checks of all electrical equipment in the office at set and regular intervals. By looking for and correcting visible signs of damage or faults, most electrical accidents can be prevented.
Staff should be trained to be aware of electrical safety and to report equipment which is not working properly to their manager or supervisor.
Prevent electrical accidents in the office
Regularly inspect office equipment by unplugging it and visually inspecting for signs of:
- Damage such as cracking in the cable covering, the plug casing is cracked or the pins are bent, or the coloured insulation of the internal wires is showing. If you find any of these faults, promptly disconnect and replace the cord or equipment.
- Equipment being used in conditions where it is not suitable, such as a wet or dusty workplace.
- Damage to the outer cover of the equipment or obvious loose parts or screws; and
- Overheating (burn marks or staining).
In addition to physically inspecting equipment, cables and cords should be tucked away so they do not present tripping or slipping hazards or can be cut by sharp desk or drawer edges or rolled over by chair legs.
- Ensure that the electrical load of equipment such as computers, printers, scanners, faxes, shredders and telephones is spread over several circuits.
- If you are using extension cords as a permanent source of power, consider having additional circuits installed by a qualified electrician. To find a qualified electrician, please visit the Electrical Safety Authority website.
- Place electric cords where there is air circulating to prevent overheating.
- Keep electrical cords away from radiators, space heaters and/or other heat sources.
- When unplugging equipment pull on the plug, not the cord.
- Plug office electronics in a surge protector device.
- Ensure grounded (3-prong) appliances and equipment are plugged into grounded outlets.
- Protect office electronics from the possibility of food and beverage spills. Electrically powered machines may become live to the touch after having liquid spilled on them.
- Ensure all electrical equipment bears the mark of a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC) or Canadian Standards Association (CSA ) approved, or both.
- Ensure electrical panel doors are freely accessible and unblocked by furniture or clutter.
In addition, dispose of unsafe equipment or poorly maintained appliances including old coffee makers, radios, lamps, space heaters and other equipment that are often brought into the office by employees. These items can often develop electrical shorts and create fire or electrical shock.
- If electrical equipment malfunctions or gives off a strange odour, disconnect it and call the appropriate maintenance personnel.
Portable space heaters
Portable electric space heaters are often used by employees to provide additional heat during the colder months. Unfortunately, space heaters also increase the risks of fire and electric shock if they are not used properly.
Guelph Hydro recommends that employers educate employees about safe space heater practices to reduce the risks to employees and facilities.
- Employees should be required to obtain approval from a supervisor or facility manager prior to using a space heater at work.
- All space heaters should have the certification of either Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC) or be Canadian Standards Association (CSA) approved, or both.
- Keep heaters at least three feet away from anything that can burn, including papers, clothing and rugs.
- Keep space heaters out of high traffic areas and doorways where they may pose a tripping hazard.
- Plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet. Do not use an extension cord or power strip, which could overheat and result in a fire.
- Do not plug any other electrical devices into the same outlet as the heater.
- Operating space heaters should never be left unattended. They should be turned off and unplugged at the end of the work day or whenever the employee leaves the room.