Electrical fire safety advice

by FM Media
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Recommendations to help reduce the risk of electrical fires in the workplace.

Businesses using portable electric heaters and other electrical equipment in the workplace are advised to be extra vigilant in winter. Although electrical hazards exist in almost every workplace, winter often presents heightened risks, according to Garry Kwok, national technical manager at Wormald.
Kwok states that almost all electrical equipment is potentially hazardous and can cause serious injury or damage if improperly used or maintained. Research conducted by Wormald shows that the most common causes of workplace fires are electrical hazards (29 percent) and machinery (27 percent).
“Many workplace fires can be attributed to malfunctions in electrical equipment due to overworking, inappropriate use, inadequate ventilation or overheating, neglect, ageing or lack of maintenance. All fire hazards in a workplace must be identified and assessed, and the level of risk associated with these hazards must be understood.”
To help reduce the risk of electrical fires in the workplace, Wormald’s recommendations include:

  • Electrical equipment should be inspected, tested and tagged periodically in accordance with Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZ 3760: In-service safety inspection and testing of electrical equipment to help ensure the safety of those using the electrical equipment in the workplace.
  • When using portable heaters, avoid placing them under desks or in enclosed spaces. The heat from these units can cause paper or other combustible material to catch fire or melt the insulation around electrical appliances.
  • Do not overload electrical circuits and extension cords. Multi-way outlets and extension cords are often used in the workplace due to the number of devices and machines operating at any one time.
  • Avoid using poorly maintained and/or poor quality electrical appliances as they can develop electrical shorts, which can result in a fire. Careful attention should be given to the condition of equipment and extension cords.
  • Replace any electrical tool or apparatus if it causes even the smallest electrical tingle/shock, shows evidence of overheating, trips a circuit breaker or gives off smoke or sparks.
  • Check electrical office equipment such as computers, printers, scanners and shredders regularly to ensure power cords are not defective, frayed or improperly connected. Cords should never be placed on or near hot surfaces, such as radiators, or fastened to walls or windows or pushed tightly against or behind furniture such that the cord could become acutely bent, compressed or damaged.
  • Working on ‘live equipment’ is a serious hazard. Before cleaning, adjusting or applying flammable solutions, electrical equipment and/or machines should be disconnected.
  • Combustible material such as cardboard boxes and paper should not be stored or allowed to build up in inappropriate locations near sources of heat or ignition.

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