How can I be safer at work?

Employers usually offer orientation and training for new employees, but sometimes electrical safety is overlooked. Beyond burning popcorn in the microwave and annoying all your coworkers with the stench, Vera Water and Power reminds you of the following on-the-job electrical safety tips, which can also apply at home:

General safety tips

Do not complete electrical work if you are not qualified. Employees asked to change light fixtures, repair wiring, install outlets or other types of electrical work have been injured and killed on the job. It is best to leave electrical work to a professional electrician.

  • Many offices have landlines. Do not talk on a landline phone during a thunderstorm. Many people think this is a myth, but it is not — a bolt of lightning that strikes a telephone line can come through the wires and enter a headset. That jolt can burst your eardrum or even cause cardiac arrest.
  • Use high quality extension cords with appropriate gauge and length endorsed by a reputable laboratory.
  • Do not run extension cords under carpet. Out of sight, out of mind, and the cords could get damaged under the carpet or overheat, causing a fire.
  •  Another reason not to place extension cords under carpet: they should be used as a temporary solution. If your workplace needs more outlets, your employer should have a professional electrician install them.
  • Electrical cords can be a tripping hazard; your employer should supply heavy duty cord covers.
  • Do not overload the electrical system at your work by plugging too many items in or plugging in items that draw too much power.
  • Speaking of drawing too much power, ask before using a space heater at work.
  • Do not use damaged cords, plugs, outlets or outdated electrical equipment.
  • Do not yank on an electrical cord to unplug something; grasp the plug instead.
  • If you are doing work outdoors, be vigilant about power line locations. Window washers, roofers, painters and other workers have been injured and killed after making contact with power lines either with a tool or object they were holding or by direct contact.
  • If your employer asks you to trim trees, do not trim any foliage or limbs within 10 feet of a power line in any direction (20 feet is better!). Trimming near power lines should be left to OSHA-certified line clearance workers.
  • If you operate farm machinery or drive a truck that has hydraulic beds or lifts (dump truck, for example), bins (grain truck) or arms/extensions (garbage truck, concrete truck), always be aware of power line locations and use a spotter. Contact with a power line can kill. If your truck, tractor or equipment does come in contact with a line, DO NOT get out. Call 9-1-1 and wait for us to de-energize the power so you can safely exit.
  • If you rent/use scaffolding or a boom lift to raise you up, always be aware of power line locations.
Around water
  • Be careful when working around water. Water and electricity should not mix, and it greatly increases the chance of shock. Keep all electrical equipment away from standing water or damp conditions (indoors or outdoors) and do not operate equipment with wet hands.
  • Make sure any outlet that is near a water source (and all outdoor outlets) are GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) protected.