Electrical Safety

Electrically-powered equipment/ devices can pose a significant hazard to workers, particularly when mishandled or not maintained properly. Many electrical devices have high voltage or high power requirements, carrying even more risk. Large capacitors found in many laser flash lamps and other systems are capable of storing lethal amounts of electrical energy and pose a serious danger even if the power source has been disconnected.

Electrical equipment/ devices frequently found at GUMC may include:

  • hot plates
  • heating mantles
  • stirrers
  • vacuum pumps
  • electrophoresis apparatus
  • lasers
  • ultrasonicators
  • power supplies
  • refrigerator/ freezers
  • centrifuges
  • incubators
  • microwave ovens

The major consequences associated with mishandled electrical equipment/ devices are: fire, shock and electrocution. Electrical shock or electrocution occurs when the body becomes part of the electric circuit; which follows an individual coming in contact with both wires of an electrical circuit, one wire of an energized circuit and the ground, or a metallic part that has become energized by contact with an electrical conductor. 

The severity and effect of an electrical shock depend on a number of factors, such as the pathway through the body, the amount of current, the length of time of the exposure, and whether the skin is wet or dry. Water is a great conductor of electricity, allowing current to flow more easily in wet conditions and through wet skin. The effect of the shock may range from a slight tingle to severe burns to cardiac arrest.

The prevention or control of electrical hazards can be accomplished through:

  • avoiding the sequential use of power strips and other outlet multipliers (i.e. piggy-backing)
  • the implementation of safe work practices every time electrical equipment is used
  • the inspection of wiring before each use
  • immediate replacement of damaged or frayed electrical cords
  • eliminating or minimizing the potential for water spills on or near electrical equipment
  • limiting the use of extension cords to 90 days or less