Electrical fires are one of the biggest hidden dangers that your workers may encounter while on the job. These kinds of emergencies often don’t present any warning until it’s too late. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to provide a safe and reliable workplace for your employees, and preventing electrical fires is an important part of that. Here, we’ve provided six easy ways to reduce the risk of electrical fires in the workplace.
1. Have Fire Safety Equipment
While fire safety equipment might not prevent a fire from happening, it can certainly help minimize the damage and the risk of injury to your employees. Be sure to install an adequate number of fire detectors throughout your workplace and test your equipment regularly. Batteries should be changed twice a year; most agencies recommend changing the batteries when switching between Standard and Daylight Savings Time in the spring and fall.
Additionally, be sure to have several fire extinguishers throughout the workplace; the exact number needed will depend on the size of your building. Post these fire extinguishers at regular intervals throughout your workplace and be sure your workers know where each is located. You might also consider posting a map in a centralized location, such as the break room, so everyone has an easy reference point.
2. Review OSHA Guidelines
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, has established guidelines that American workplaces must follow. These guidelines are put in place to ensure that you and your employees have a safe work environment at all times. OSHA has specific guidelines to protect against electrical fires. Review these OSHA guidelines to make sure that your business is in compliance.
Compliance with OSHA guidelines is about more than safety, although this is obviously the most important part. It communicates that you care about the wellbeing of your employees and can help your business gain a reputation as a safe and reliable workplace. You can also avoid the risk of sizable fines that might occur if you’re not compliant. Learn more about the different types of OSHA violations.
3. Be Familiar with Your Electrical Distribution System
The electrical distribution system outlines your entire system, including highlighting all the ways that electricity enters and exits your building. The larger the space, the more complex your electrical distribution system will be. It’s helpful to have a copy of your electrical distribution blueprint on hand, and make sure you are familiar with the layout of your system.
Your blueprint will show the location of the circuit breakers, power fuses, transformers, wires, and more. Having access to this blueprint can be helpful when repairing or renovating your building, making sure that no damage is caused in your electrical system. Additionally, you can see the areas of your electrical system that may be equipped for lighter or heavier loads, allowing you to adjust your flow accordingly.
4. Properly Train Your Staff
Human error is one of the most common causes of electrical fires in the workplace, making it vital to have fire safety training for new hires and seasoned employees. This training can include common sense tips for avoiding electrical fires as well as understanding the basics of your electrical system. Consider holding this training for every new employee and at regular intervals, such as once per year, for your existing staff members. Your training should include a demonstration of your safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers, so your employees know how to respond if there is an emergency.
5. Don’t Link Multiple Power Strips Together
One of the most common practices in the workplace is “daisy chaining” multiple power strips together. This practice includes plugging one power strip into the wall outlet, then plugging a second power strip into the first power strip. Employers may connect many power strips together in order to have access to more outlets. However, this is a major fire hazard that should always be avoided. (To be clear, power strips used individually are perfectly safe and can even protect your electrical devices in the case of a power surge.)
Power strips are only approved for a certain number of amperes, and connecting them together can cause too much electricity to run throughout the system. This, in turn, can cause the power strip to heat up and potentially spark, causing a fire. A daisy chain of power strips is also against OSHA guidelines, which could lead to workplace injuries or fines as described above.
6. Conduct Regular Electrical Check-Ups
As previously mentioned, threats to your electrical system may not be readily apparent. That’s why it’s vital to bring in an expert at regular intervals to make sure your electrical system is performing as it should. Professional electrical engineers can perform check-ups on your system to ensure everything is running properly, and if there is an issue, they can recommend steps to correct the problem. Additionally, your electrical engineer can perform power system evaluations and other services that will provide key insights on the capabilities of your current system.
Mark Thomas & Associates Electrical Engineers (MTAEE) is proud to be a trusted resource for electrical testing throughout Los Angeles, San Diego, and the West Coast. We are happy to provide testing and advice for all your electrical needs, helping to ensure your workplace is safe and functional for your employees every single day. Some of our most popular services include Power System Evaluations, Electrical Testing, Coordination Studies, Electrical Drawings, and more. For additional information about our services or to schedule an appointment, contact us today!