Electricity is essential to the operations of a modern automated office as a source of power. Electrical equipment used in an office is potentially hazardous and can cause serious shock and burn injuries if improperly used or maintained.
Nature of the Hazard
Electricity travels through electrical conductors, which may be in the form of wires or parts of the human body.
Most metals and moist skin offer very little resistance to the flow of electrical current and can easily conduct electricity.
Other substances such as dry wood, porcelain, or pottery offer a high resistance and can be used to prevent the flow of electrical current.
If a part of the body comes in contact with the electrical circuit, a shock will occur.
The electrical current will enter the body at one point and leave at another. The passage of electricity through the body can cause great pain, burns, destruction of tissue, nerves, and muscles and even death.
Factors influencing the effects of electrical shock include the type of current, voltage, resistance, amperage, pathway through body, and the duration of contact. The longer the current flows through the body, the more serious the injury.
Injuries are less severe when the current does not pass through or near nerve centers and vital organs.
Electrical accidents usually occur as a result of faulty or defective equipment, unsafe installation, or misuse of equipment on the part of office workers.
Types of electrical hazards found in an office environment include the following:
Grounding is a method of protecting employees from electric shock. By grounding an electrical system, a low-resistance path to earth through a ground connection is intentionally created. When properly done, this path offers sufficiently low resistance and has sufficient current-carrying capacity to prevent the build-up of hazardous voltages. Most fixed equipment such as large, stationary machines must be grounded. Cord and plug connected equipment must be grounded if it is located in hazardous or wet locations, if operated at more than 150 volts to ground, or if it is of a certain type of equipment (such as refrigerators and air conditioners). Smaller office equipment, such as typewriters and coffee makers, would generally not fall into these categories and therefore would not have to be grounded. However much of the newer office equipment is manufactured with grounded three-prong plugs as a precaution. In such cases, the equipment should be used in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. In any case, never remove the third (grounding) prong from any three-prong piece of equipment.
Insufficient or overloading of electrical outlets should be avoided. A sufficient number of outlets will eliminate the need for extension cords. Overloading electrical circuits and extension cords can result in a fire. Floor mounted outlets should be carefully placed to prevent tripping hazards.
The use of poorly maintained or unsafe, poor quality, non-approved (by national testing laboratory) coffee makers, radios, lamps, space heaters, etc. (often provided by or used by employees) should be discarded. Such appliances can develop electrical shorts creating fire and/or shock hazards. Equipment and cords should be inspected regularly, and a qualified individual should make repairs.