Electricity is used daily. However, if uncontrolled or misused it can severely burn, injure, or kill you or cause fires with devastating results. However, most electrical faults can be seen by visual inspection.
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It is necessary for healthcare workers and employers to comply with OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910 Subpart S - Electrical. Normal and regular use of electrical equipment can cause wear and tear that result in insulation breaks, short-circuits, and exposed wires. Electrical equipment shall be free from recognized hazards [29 CFR 1910.303(b)(1)].
Any of the following circumstances requires that the user immediately take the equipment out of service:
Healthcare workers must label the equipment, “Do Not Use” and should arrange for equipment repair either through the equipment manufacturer or through their department support as appropriate.
Listed or labeled equipment shall be used or installed in accordance with any instructions included in the listing or labeling [29 CFR 1910.303(b)(2)]. In the past, critical safety information and equipment specs for electrical equipment in healthcare facilities were printed on an adhesive label and put directly on the equipment. Now, due to NFPA 70E, a barcode or QR code can be used to link to a central database. This database gives workers access to the necessary hazard information, including voltage, current and energy levels, as well as other important information.
With this change, electrical workers can:
Repair all damaged receptacles and portable electrical equipment before placing them back into service [29 CFR 1910.334(a)(2)(ii)].
Insulation that is defective or inadequate is an electrical hazard. Usually, a plastic or rubber covering insulates wires. Insulation prevents conductors from coming in contact with each other and with people.
Extension cords: Extension cords may have damaged insulation. When insulation is damaged, exposed metal parts may become energized if live wires contact one another.
Tools: Electric machinery that is old, damaged, or misused may have damaged insulation inside. If you touch damaged equipment, you will receive a shock. You are more likely to receive a shock if the equipment is not grounded or double-insulated.
You must recognize that defective insulation is a hazard.
Use safeguards for personnel protection and electrical protective equipment [29 CFR 1910.335(b)].
Employees who work directly with electricity should use the personal protective equipment required for the jobs they perform. This equipment may include rubber insulating gloves, hoods, sleeves, matting, blankets, line hose, and industrial protective helmets that are designed to reduce electric shock hazard. These help to reduce the risk of electrical accidents. General safe practices include:
Your employer is required to make sure extension cables and other flexible leads which are particularly prone to damage to plugs and sockets and to their connections are visually checked, maintained and where necessary replaced before using portable equipment. The ends of flexible cables should always have the outer sheath of the cable firmly clamped to stop the wires from pulling out of the terminals.
It is necessary to select and use appropriate work practices [29 CFR 1910.333].
The following practices may reduce risk of injury or fire when working with electrical equipment in a healthcare facility:
Employers should use ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI's) on all 120-volt, single-phase, and 15- and 20-ampere receptacles.
Wear and tear on electrical equipment or tools can result in insulation breaks, short-circuits, and exposed wires. If there is no ground-fault protection, these can cause a ground-fault that sends current through the worker's body, resulting in electrical burns, explosions, fire, or death. Even when the power system is properly grounded, electrical equipment can instantly change from safe to hazardous because of extreme conditions and rough treatment.
The ground-fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, is a fast-acting circuit breaker designed to shut off electric power in the event of a ground-fault and prevent injury to the worker.
When you "ground" an electrical system, you intentionally create a low-resistance path that connects to the earth. This prevents the buildup of voltages that could cause an electrical accident.
Grounding is normally a secondary protective measure to protect against electric shock. It does not guarantee that you won't be shocked, injured, or killed by an electrical current. It will, however, substantially reduce the risk.
There are many other relevant OSHA Standards for electrical safety in the healthcare industry:
To learn more about electrical safety in the workplace, check out OSHAcademy courses 115 Electrical Safety for Employees: Basic, 615 Electrical Safety: Hazards and Controls, and 715 Electrical Safety for Technicians and Supervisors.
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