Electrical Safety in the Office – 5 Tips to Avoid Accidents in the Workplace

In the UK during the last financial year, 137 people were killed in the workplace. In addition, 31.2 million working days were lost and 14.9 billion was lost due to injuries and ill health resulting from working conditions.

One of the key areas of office and workplace safety is around electrical items and the dangers these can pose. The hazards can range in size and scale, from electrical cords causing trip risk to full scale electrocution. If control measures are not put in place and regular checks not carried out, then you may be putting your employees at substantial risk.

Common electrical injuries

Office or workplace electrical injuries can take many forms but some of the most common are electric shocks. This is when voltage applied to the body causes electrical current to flow through the person. This blocks signals to the brain which can have a series of mild and severe consequences on the body. These can include muscle spasms, stopping of breathing and heart failure.

Similarly, electrical burns are caused when this current passing through the person causes muscle tissue to heat up. These burns are often very deep and difficult to treat. Although more usual at higher voltages, they can still happen at office level voltages. Other injury types include thermal burns and loss of muscle control.

Identifying the causes

Some of the most common types of electrical injuries in the workplace are caused by:

  • Equipment that is poorly installed or maintained
  • Dangerous wiring
  • Overloaded or overheated outlets
  • Accidental use of live equipment
  • Incorrect fuse use
  • Use of electrical equipment near water

All the above risks and plenty more are entirely preventable if the right safety measures are put in place. With that in mind, there are five key things you can do to make your office and workplace safe for everyone.

Install and maintain safe appliances

Under the Electricity at Work Regulations Act (1989) it is the employer’s responsibility to make sure that all equipment is fit for purpose and does not pose any danger to staff or the public. This includes making sure that all electrical equipment is safe for use in its intended purpose. All equipment should have been subject to the required checks before being brought into the office or workplace. Similarly, any equipment that you use should be installed and maintained by a qualified engineer. Any faults that are discovered should be reported immediately.

Additionally, to check the ongoing safety of office electricals, many companies will conduct yearly inspections such as PAT Testing. In using testing equipment such as Fluke testers, these inspections can help identify any faults in electrical equipment that may be a risk to employees.

Employee training and awareness

Many electrical injuries and accidents are caused by a lack of knowledge or training around certain areas. Staff should be trained to spot the signs of electrical danger, such as frayed electrical cables, odours that signify electrical danger, overloaded power outlets and more. With the right training, they will be able to spot the signs of faulty equipment, and good reporting practice should help to prevent accidents.

Clearance

Modern offices and workplaces need electricity to function. Almost every aspect of business depends on it. And this electrical current has to come into the building and be arranged somewhere. These places should be safely out of the way and behind closed doors. It is also a good idea to maintain a safe clearance zone of at least one metre from any electrical panels.

Deal with cords

These are one of the main causes of electrical injury in the office for a number of reasons. Not only do they get frayed and expose live wires, but they are also trip hazards. Cords get snagged or tugged, pulling electrical items off work tops, further increasing the risks.

All electrical cables should ideally be well positioned to limit risk. Avoid having cables in high traffic areas where they can be damaged. Keep them clear of heat sources or water and use cable ties to keep cables neatly stowed. Any faulty or damaged cables should be removed or replaced immediately.

Turn off the power

Another major cause of accidents is people not realising equipment is live. Make it common practice to turn off equipment when not in use, shut down electrical equipment and take out the plugs when closing down the office each night. In addition, all appliances should be turned off before cleaning.

Not only will following these tips for electrical safety reduce the risk of accidents and injury to you, your staff and customers but it is also good for business. Reducing the numbers of accidents and sick days taken from avoidable injuries will help to minimise the economic impact. Keeping your staff safe in the workplace really is good for business, in every sense of the term.

Workplace Safety Tips – Evacuation Plans are more than a Fire Drill

We have all been doing fire drills since we were in grammar school. But in a modern industrial environment there is a lot more to consider than just marching the students down the hall.

In a manufacturing situation, there are specific actions that need to be taken by machine operators to shut down the machines safely and to minimize the restart expense. And if you are not actually shutting down your machines for a drill, then you don’t know if your procedures actually work.

OSHA and other regulating bodies have various rules about how often evacuation drills are to be practiced. This article in no way supersedes those requirements. This article is designed to give you advice on how to make your actual fire drill practice a more valuable experience.

When I worked in a printing facility handling flammable liquids, each employee had specific duties that he was expected to perform on his way out the door in the event of a fire. These duties included things like pressing an emergency stop button, releasing a safety latch to cover flammable liquids or closing a door to a room where flammable liquids were stored.

In a standard evacuation drill, there was no way to observe if every one did their jobs correctly or if they even knew what these jobs were. Practicing these jobs only once or twice a year was ineffective in making sure the workers were trained in the tasks.

Because it was very expensive to restart the printing presses after any shutdown, we had to minimize the actual machine stoppages as well.

The most effective method we found for training personnel in their evacuation duties was what we called the one at a time fire drill.

About once a month, our fire and emergency procedures team would take a list of employees and arrange with their supervisor to have them lead the trainer through their evacuation duties. The trainer would observe their actions and compare what they did to the written procedure. If necessary, the trainer could take corrective action immediately and give feedback on how they followed the written procedure.

If there was a deviation in the actions of the employee from the procedure, the team member determined if training was required or if the procedure need to be modified to match current work practices. Therefore, the one at a time fire drill accomplished two valuable purposes – Procedure review and training.

Since the machine was not actually shut down and the work crews not fully evacuated, the cost of this training exercise was minimal. Usually the only cost involved was that of having an extra staff member on hand to fill in for the one being trained.

We found this method of training to be very effective. Many operators who had been in their jobs for several years had never been given the opportunity to actually walk through their fire control duties before we instituted this program. We found several procedures that were unworkable as they interfered with the primary action of evacuating the building.

When executing a one at a time fire drill training plan, be sure to include every one. Even those whose only duty is to get themselves out of the building. Walk with them to the exit so you know they know which one to use.

Also consider lines of progression as an employee may be temporarily promoted to a different job task from time to time. Make sure you arrange to train them on the emergency duties of the temporary advancement position as well as the regular duties.

Another aspect to consider in evacuations and evacuation drills is the event of inclement weather. It does not help to have employees evacuate a burning building only to die from hypothermia on the outside.

Make sure you have considered the possibility of an evacuation during cold or wet weather. Make arrangements for alternate shelter or protective clothing and practice the use and distribution of such during your actual evacuation drills.

Another very important aspect of evacuations is the accounting of personnel. You must have a quick and accurate method of accounting for all personnel including visitors, vendors and contractors that are on the site during the evacuation. Many modern electronic attendance monitoring systems have made this task even more challenging as you don’t always have a computer print out of who is at work with you during an evacuation.

You must prepare in advance a system that is accessible to supervisors so that they can accurately account for their personnel in the event of an emergency. Overlooking a single person in unacceptable in such an instance. So is the needless endangerment of emergency responders looking for a person who is not really trapped.

Assigning small group supervisors or team leaders the responsibility of tracking their employees and keeping a written record of their presence or absence in the facility is one simple method of handling the accountability issue. Make sure you practice this accountability during your full evacuation drills as well as one on one with he supervisor or team leader.

Evacuation drills are not just a required nuisance. They serve a very important role in responding to an emergency and minimizing your business loss. Through proper planning and training you can minimize the business interruption and restart costs.

Injured workers will significantly delay your restart and impact your future productivity and profitability. Money spent on training and planning for an emergency will save your many times the cost in the event of an actual emergency. The one at a time fire drill training procedure can also be used to build familiarity with equipment making your employees even more productive. And, if they feel safe at work, they will be work more effectively as well.

7 Workplace Safety Tips to Implement Today

Safe businesses are healthy businesses, so keeping your workplace safe is crucial to your team’s well-being as well as your productivity. Luckily, workplace safety isn’t rocket science. Here are 7 simple workplace safety tips that you can implement today.

1. Check for slip/fall hazards. Falls are among the most common workplace injuries. They’re also among the easiest to prevent. Using nonslip mats on slippery areas is one simple solution. Another is ensuring steps or other potential trip hazards are clearly marked. Encouraging your team to wear appropriate footwear could also keep them safe.

2. Keep fire exits clear. This may sound obvious, but all too often, the space in front of “unused” fire doors gets co-opted for storage. This is fine until that fateful day you actually need to get out through that door. So don’t fall for this temptation. Keep fire exits clear and clearly marked.

3. Implement regular housekeeping. Prevent stuff from occupying space it shouldn’t by regularly eliminating clutter. This means making a commitment to regular housekeeping. Make it a habit to quickly dispose of unneeded items, such as broken equipment or empty shipping boxes. Such objects often become trip hazards or fire hazards if allowed to accumulate. Setting up a regular cleaning schedule (which in some workplaces, can be a rotating chore list for team members) will ensure your workplace stays orderly.

4. Promote a culture of safety. The most important factor in workplace safety is the human factor. Make sure your team knows you put safety first. Encourage commonsense safety practices, such as driving at sensible speeds.

5. Cultivate a healthy workplace. Team members who go to work tired or sick may pride themselves on their grit, but dozing off while driving or operating heavy equipment properly can lead to serious accidents. Workplace health programs can teach your team easy self-care strategies while reducing your accident risk.

6. Regularly inspect protective gear and personal equipment. Protective gear, such as welder’s goggles or safety harnesses, are your team’s first line of defense against workplace hazards. But even the best gear can wear out over time. Make sure everyone’s safety gear is regularly inspected. Also, don’t hesitate to replace any items that are past their prime. The safety of your team may depend on it.

7. Have written safety standards in place. Smart managers know nothing gets done if it’s not in writing. Make sure to put your safety standards in writing, and ensure everyone on your team is familiar with them. Written standards also remind your team that workplace safety should be a priority.

Partnering with a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) is an easy way to ensure your team stays safe. By acting as your combined payroll and human resources department, a PEO company helps you develop practical workplace policies. It also ensures you’re in compliance with current OSHA regulations.