10 tips for the safe use of electrical items in your workplace

Workplace safety is a big issue and one we all need to take extremely seriously. Prevention can avoid many potential electrical safety issues and You don’t want to find yourself in the situation where there is an electrical incident at your workplace that could have easily been avoided.

So, how do you ensure a safe electrical environment in your workplace? What steps do you need to follow and what processes should you have in place? Here are 10 tips to help you make your workplace a safe electrical environment.

#1 Get your portable appliances regularly tested and tagged

Testing and tagging the portable appliances in your workplace is a great place to start ensuring that your business is a safe electrical environment. Businesses in construction, mining and demolition must conduct testing and tagging every three months because there’s a high risk of electrical appliances being damaged during the normal course of business. For most other businesses, testing and tagging is a recommendation. But it’s best practice to implement testing and tagging in your business, because it’s one way to make sure that all the appliances used in your business are working properly and are safe to use.

#2 Get your safety switches checked

Safety switches are just that – switches that ensure the safety of you and everyone within your business. They cut the electricity instantaneously to avoid the risk of electric shock. But safety switches can only do their job if they’re working properly and importantly if they’ve been placed on the right circuits.

Employ an electrician or a qualified electrical compliance tester to check that your safety switches are working, that you have enough of them, and they’re connected to the right circuits.

#3 Have your electrical circuits tested

Faulty electrical circuits can be a safety hazard, especially in old buildings which were constructed when the safety standards weren’t quite what they are today. When you first move into a building, have your electrical circuits fault loop tested, which involves a trained technician or an electrician testing each circuit to make sure that it’s working correctly.

#4 Discard any damaged appliances

Just because an appliance has a current tag that says it has been tested and tagged and its next test isn’t yet due, doesn’t always mean it’s safe to use.

An appliance can easily be damaged after testing takes place. So, don’t make the mistake of thinking that an appliance with a frayed cord is safe to use because it has a current tag. It’s not.

No appliance that has any sign of visual damage (no matter how small) should be assumed to be s safe to use. If the plastic is discoloured, or the plug is damaged, or the cord is exposed then don’t use it until you’ve had it checked by an expert.

And don’t be tempted to tape up the cord with duct tape yourself.

#5 Don’t leave electrical appliances plugged into the wall if they’re not being used

Some electrical appliances are used all the time and need to remain plugged in — desktop computers and printers for example. But, if an electrical appliance isn’t going to be used all the time, unplug it when you’re finished with it, roll its cord up neatly and if it’s a small appliance such as an iron or a hairdryer, put it away somewhere where it can’t be damaged.

Leaving electrical appliances that aren’t used all the time plugged in is a hazard for several reasons. The first is the risk of just leaving an appliance with power running through it when it isn’t being used. But this practice can also pose a hazard because often in these situations, the power cord can be a tripping hazard. Don’t risk someone injuring themselves because they trip over the cord for the iron, or the scanner, or the projector. Be safe and unplug appliances before you leave them — even for an instant.

#6 Be safe with cords

Be safe with cords generally. When you’re plugging an appliance in, make sure that it doesn’t pose a hazard to anyone walking nearby. Roll extension cords up safely when you’re finished with them. And don’t run cords under carpets or behind cupboards. An out of sight cord is a cord that could have unseen damage. This is especially the case when it comes to running cords under rugs and carpets. The constant wear on the carpet can easily damage the internal wiring of the cord and pose a potential risk of electrical fire if the cord heats up and the carpet or rug catches alight.

#7 Keep electrical items away from water

Water and electricity are a bad mix and should never be together except in controlled circumstances. If you run a business where electrical appliances could come into contact with water while someone is using the appliance (a hair salon for instance where water dripping from washed hair could come into contact with a hairdryer) then ensure all your staff know the basics of electrical safety and follow those rules. 

#8 Don’t overload power boards and double adapters

It’s a dangerous practice to overload power boards and double adapters. Make sure no one in your business is doing this because it poses a potential risk of electrical fire through overloading the electrical circuits.

Never use a double adapter with a power board – either by plugging the power board into a double adapter or using a double adapter in one of the sockets on the power board. Double adapters and power boards should never go together.

#9 Make sure you know what electrical appliances are being used in your business

Don’t assume that you know about all the electrical appliances that are being used in your business as staff or visitors can bring appliances in from home – that toasted sandwich maker in the kitchen that everyone loves which was handed down to a staff member, for example. These appliances need to be tested and tagged for safety and compliance, just like appliances owned by the business.

#10 Use a reputable supplier to check your electrical circuits and appliances

The joint Australian New Zealand safety standard AS/NZS 3760.2010 places the responsibility for electrical safety with the responsible person in the business – which is generally the business owner unless that responsibility has been delegated (to a manager for example).

That means that if you engage an electrician or a test and tag service to perform electrical checks and testing in your business, it is your responsibility to ensure that they have the relevant licences and qualifications. That’s why it’s good to go with a reputable name you know – like Jim’s Group. Test & Tag technicians have all been trained in electrical compliance testing so they can test and tag, conduct safety switch testing and perform electrical fault loop testing and you can have peace of mind that the services are being carried out by technicians who are qualified and trained to do the work.