Electrical Safety, Special Topics in Safety Management

Checklist for Dealing with Workplace Power Interruptions

Do you have a plan for when the power goes out unexpectedly? You should.

A power outage can amount to much more than just a brief inconvenience. It can create safety issues that workers may not recognize unless they have been told to expect them.

Consider these questions to identify and plan for possible hazards that can arise from power failures:

  • Are battery-powered flashlights and extra batteries available, especially to workers located in areas with no natural light source?
  • Do workers have hardwired telephones (not cordless phones) or cell phones available for reporting emergencies—or reporting in?
  • Do workers know how to manually open and close any electrically operated or secured doors and gates?
  • If you have employees who rely on medical equipment, do they have battery backup available?
  • If disabled workers are located on upper floors, do you have a system in place to help them get downstairs safely when the elevators are not working?
  • Does your smoke alarm/emergency notification system have a battery backup
  • Is your battery-powered emergency lighting regularly inspected to ensure that it is in good working order?

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Also consider what your workers know. Do they know to:

  • Shut off any electrically powered equipment that was operating when the power went out?
  • Turn off any heat-producing equipment to minimize fire hazards when the power returns?
  • Shut off any electrically powered equipment that was operating when the power went out?
  • Stay clear of points of operation and other parts of machinery that could move or cycle unexpectedly when the power returns?
  • Treat traffic lights that are not working as four-way stops if they leave the facility?
  • Bring equipment back online in stages after the power returns to avoid straining the system?

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Generator Safety

If you will use a generator for backup power:

  • Have you notified your electrical utility that you will use a generator during power outages, as required by state law?
  • If your generator is hardwired, was it installed by a trained, qualified electrician?
  • If you will use a portable generator, have you taken precautions to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning? Have you addressed the issue of noise?
  • Do workers know never to plug portable generators into an electrical outlet because of the possibility of dangerous feedback into the system?
  • Is someone responsible for shutting down and locking out the main breaker while the generator is in operation?