Electrical equipment in the office: do’s and don’ts

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication.

New outlet up close screwdriver.The typical office features a collection of wires, outlets, cables and other electrical equipment. Although ever-present and used on a daily basis, electrical equipment requires constant awareness of its associated hazards, as well as training on appropriate use, storage and maintenance, the Indiana Department of Labor reminds employers and workers in its Indiana Labor Insider newsletter.

“Improper use of electrical equipment can create overheated equipment, which can lead to fires, shock and electrocution,” warns IDOL, which provides some do’s and don’ts regarding certain electrical equipment.

Extension cords
DON’T use an extension cord as a permanent source of energy and never connect multiple extension cords, also known as “daisy chaining.”
DON’T run flexible extension cords under carpet or through doorways or walls. They’re not a substitute for permanent wiring and shouldn’t be attached to walls/floors with staples or clips.
DO make sure flexible extension cords have the current capacity for the load current – “12-gauge wire cords are recommended.”
DO protect all cords with special covers when subject to foot traffic. “Bright colors and high-visibility elements are helpful.”
DO make sure extension cords have appropriate insulation and/or covers to protect against damage, which could lead to an increased risk of fire and shock injuries.

Power strips
DON’T use power strips as a permanent power source and refrain from daisy chaining them.
DON’T use a power strip that doesn’t have overcurrent protection. Those that have electrical spike protection for digital equipment may be used as a permanent power source – but not daisy chained to an extension cord.
DO use wall outlets for equipment that is left on permanently, leaving the use of power strips for short-term projects only.

Flexible electrical cords
DON’T run flexible electrical cords under carpet or other combustible covers. “This is a serious fire hazard from the potential of overheated cords. Additionally, these cords could be damaged by heavy or sharp objects resting on them, moving across them, or dropped on them.”

Receptacles
DO
 use receptacles equipped with ground fault circuit interrupters in restrooms and roof outlets – they’re required within 6 feet of a sink or wet process on a worksite. “This protects the worker from the risk of shock and electrocution.”


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

Parking lot safety

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First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication.

Parking lots can be a safety risk for workers, especially with the sun setting earlier during the winter months.

When you’re returning to your vehicle, always try to walk with a co-worker or security officer, the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety recommends. Then, give your escort a ride back to the building. Other tips:

  • Park in a highly visible and well-lit area near your building.
  • If you park in a garage, look for a spot near the parking attendant, if there is one, or near the stairs or a well-lit exit.
  • Use the main building entrance – avoid rear or secluded exits.
  • Have your keys out and ready as you approach your vehicle.
  • Don’t approach anyone loitering near your vehicle. Walk to a safe place or go back inside your workplace, and then call the police.
  • Lock the doors and keep the windows rolled up once you’re in the vehicle.

If you have to walk alone, follow these five tips:

  • Have a co-worker watch you from a window.
  • Wave to them on the way to your vehicle.
  • Wave even if no one is watching to give the illusion that someone is watching you return to your vehicle.
  • Always be alert to your surroundings. Keep your head up and look around.
  • Don’t wear headphones or talk on the phone. These devices can create distractions.

McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

Cleaning vs. disinfecting/sanitizing: What’s the difference?

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A best practice to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory infections is routinely cleaning and disinfecting/sanitizing surfaces, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

That’s because recent studies have found that SARS-CoV-2 – the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 – can remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials. To effectively remove and eliminate the virus, however, workers need to understand that the terms “cleaning” and “disinfecting/sanitizing” aren’t interchangeable, NIOSH Director John Howard pointed out during a March 31 webinar hosted by the National Safety Council in conjunction with the agency.

“Cleaning is getting the dirt out,” Howard said. “Sanitizing is what’s used in public health a lot to get down to a certain level of bacteria – sometimes 95% is killed. Disinfection is killing everything. That’s where you want to aim.”

CDC’s explanation goes a step further:
Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces. It doesn’t kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.
Disinfecting/sanitizing refers to using chemicals (e.g., Environmental Protection Agency-registered disinfectants) to kill germs on surfaces. This process doesn’t necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.
Sterilization describes a process of destroying or eliminating all forms of microbial life and is carried out in health care facilities by physical or chemical methods.

Among CDC’s tips to clean and disinfect surfaces:

  • Wear disposable gloves.
  • Clean surfaces using soap and water, then use a disinfectant.
  • When using EPA-registered disinfectants, follow the instructions on the label to ensure safe and effective use of the product.
  • More frequent cleaning and disinfection may be required based on level of use.
  • Surfaces and objects in public places (e.g., shopping carts and point-of-sale keypads) should be cleaned and disinfected before each use.

Study shows better airflow, more natural light can reduce spread of COVID-19 at work

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Photo: baona/iStockphoto

Davis, CA — Opening windows and blinds to improve airflow and increase natural light are some of the simple steps employers, building managers and workers can take to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in offices and other workplaces, according to a recent research review.

Using previous studies on microbes and common pathogen exchange pathways in buildings with known information about SARS-CoV-2 – the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 – researchers at the University of California, Davis and the University Oregon looked for ways to reduce potential transmission.

By opening windows, the rate of air flow can dilute virus particles indoors, an April 10 UC Davis press release states. The downside is that high amounts of air flow also can push particles back into the air and cause more energy use.

Although more research is needed on the impact of sunlight on the virus, the researchers note that “daylight exists as a free, widely available resource to building occupants with little downside to its use and many documented positive human health benefits.”

Further, maintaining a high relative humidity indoors can help because virus particles “like drier air.” High humidity also increases the size of virus particles, “meaning they settle out more quickly and don’t travel as far.”

Increased handwashing and regular cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces – where viral particles can survive for a few hours to a few days – are important practices in all workplaces. Workers responsible for cleaning and disinfecting workspaces can find a sortable, searchable and printable list of Environmental Protection Agency-approved disinfectants for use against the virus.

The study was published online April 7 in the American Society for Microbiology’s journal mSystems.

10 tips for starting a workplace safety and health program

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Photo: PeopleImages/iStockphoto

Does your workplace lack a safety and health program? If you’re looking to create one, OSHA offers 10 tips to get you going.

  1. Make safety and health a core value. Ensure workers know that having them go home safely each night is the way you do business. Let them know their health is a top concern, and make it clear that any hazards will be taken seriously and addressed.
  2. Show workers your organization cares about their safety by making safety part of daily interactions with employees.
  3. Create a well-communicated, simple reporting system workers can use to report injuries, illnesses or incidents, such as near misses. Workers need to know that they won’t be retaliated against, so include an option to make the process anonymous.
  4. Educate workers on identifying and controlling potential hazards.
  5. Regularly conduct inspections with workers, and ask them to help identify issues that concern them regarding safety.
  6. Make workers part of the safety process by asking them for hazard control ideas. “Provide them time during work hours, if necessary, to research solutions,” OSHA advises.
  7. Have workers choose, implement and evaluate hazard control solutions.
  8. Determine foreseeable emergency situations that may arise, and have a plan in place on how to handle them. Display procedure signs in visible areas of the workplace.
  9. Before making significant changes, consult with employees about potential safety and health issues.
  10. Always aim for improvement. “Set aside a regular time to discuss safety and health issues, with the goal of identifying ways to improve the program,” OSHA recommends.