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Wednesday, June 7, 2023
June 7, 2023

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Energy Adviser: Minimize workplace safety hazards


No matter if you work with your hands, your mind or some combination of the two, electrical dangers and many other hazards are present at every job.

“It’s up to everyone on the job to watch for workplace hazards and keep things as safe as possible,” said Clark Public Utilities Safety Manager Justin Zucconi. “No one wants to get hurt at work or be responsible for someone else’s injuries on the job. But accidents can be avoided with careful planning and caution.”

This time of year, space heaters can help make the workplace more comfortable, but safety should never be sacrificed for the sake of staying warm. Space heaters demand a lot of energy, so they should always be plugged directly into a wall and never used with extension cords, power strips or surge protectors.

As a general rule, they should also be kept at least 3 feet away from anything combustible, such as drapes or paperwork.

In workplaces that require a lot of electrical equipment, open outlets are tough to find. Surge protectors and power strips are excellent tools; the former is a safer choice because the built-in circuit breaker will protect sensitive electrical equipment.

Regardless of which one you use, plugging too many objects into one, daisy chaining multiple strips together, or connecting one with high-powered tools or appliances can risk blowing a circuit breaker, burning up the circuit breaker or starting a fire.

Untrained employees should never access the electrical panels. There could be much bigger problems than they realize, and the well-intended but uninformed employee could inadvertently bury a serious threat. Even if they’re comfortable with doing it at home, those panels should only be accessed by trained facilities staff.

Take care with tools

Work with tools for a living? Make sure they’re as fit for the job as you are. Damaged and frayed cords can risk a shock or starting a fire. Extension cords should always be rated for an amperage equal to the tools they power. Using a powerful tool with a small cord risks melting the cord, damaging the tools and potentially starting a fire.

If you work outside be on high alert for overhead lines and only use wooden or fiberglass ladders whenever working near them. It’s crucial to locate underground utilities before digging in the ground, even if it’s to plant a small tree. Cutting into buried utilities can be an expensive and potentially deadly accident. Call 811 at least two days ahead of time for free location services.

Whenever you’re working outside, in bathrooms or anywhere else water is present, only connect electrical equipment to ground fault circuit interrupter outlets. Those will automatically disconnect power when electronics come into contact with water or begin to “leak” electricity.

“Electrical safety is just one of several critical aspects of maintaining a hazard-free and productive working environment,” Zucconi said. “Everyone — owners, managers and employees — should do whatever they can to protect themselves and everyone around them while on the job. Cutting corners may save time, but it can put people’s health and lives at risk.”

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to ecod@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.