Generators have been used for many years to help keep businesses in varying industries running in the event of potential power outages. Businesses in fields including healthcare, construction, oil and gas, manufacturing, and even commercial offices utilize generators on a regular basis. While these powerful machines are great to have for a variety of reasons, they can also be incredibly dangerous if not used or maintained properly. Having certain safety tips in mind when working with a generator can help avoid a work injury.
Generator Safety in the Workplace
Backup generators have become an important aspect of running businesses of all types. These machines serve as a major defense against power outages due to a storm, accident, natural and manmade disasters, or aging power grids. While generators work to keep businesses in operation 24/7, they are also dangerous pieces of equipment.
In the event a generator is not properly installed, maintained, or even handled, it can result in a fire, damage to electrical equipment, or even give off deadly levels of carbon monoxide. Because of this, it’s imperative workers take critical precautions when maintaining or operating a generator. Some tips for employees on utilizing generators safely include:
ALLOW FOR PROPER VENTILATION
In any business, generators should only be operated outside or in a well-ventilated area. Larger, commercial standby generators should be located outside the building and secured on a concrete slab or properly installed in a dedicated generator room. Generators should not be installed near windows, vents, or air intakes that could allow carbon monoxide to be circulated inside and should also have at least three to four feet of space on all sides.
KEEP GENERATORS DRY
Most generators have concrete pads in place to keep them level and from potentially sinking into the ground. Pad placement is also critical to protecting the generator from flooding. When installing or moving a generator, it should be placed level on the highest ground possible to avoid any standing water pooling around it.
ONLY ALLOW AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL TO WORK ON GENERATORS
Generators can get incredibly hot while in operation and can result in severe burns if not operated properly. Because of this, safety barriers, fences, bard, or posts should be installed around a generator to ensure only authorized employees or personnel have access.
The Dangers of Working With Generators
Generators can pose many different threats when not operated properly or worked on by the right personnel. Some of the most common dangers and risks of working with generators include:
CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas, meaning it gives no apparent warning when it’s in the air. Workers may be unaware they are being exposed to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide if proper generator ventilation is not in place. When a person breathes in too much carbon monoxide, they can pass out or die within minutes of exposure. When someone is exposed to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, they may experience poisoning symptoms such as:
Generators are typically paired with an automatic transfer switch (ATS). An ATS prompts the generator to turn on within seconds following an event that causes power loss. Once power is restored from a main power grid the generator will then shut off. Without an ATS in place, on-site staff must be available to manually run the generator when needed. Failure to turn the generator off can result in back feeding, which can cause the electrocution of any electricians or maintenance workers working on down power lines.
If a generator is overloaded, it can cause damage to the machine and any appliances hooked up to it. This can cause the generator to overheat and start a fire. Because of this, it’s important for all workers authorized to manage a generator to know the amount of power it can handle to avoid overloading it. Additionally, because generators get so hot when in operation, business owners and employees alike should be aware and stay away if possible to avoid potentially burning themselves.
Large commercial generators are incredibly loud and produce noise at a high frequency. These high frequencies can cause serious damage, rupture eardrums, and even result in permanent deafness in those near it. Those authorized to work on a generator should wear earmuffs at all times when around the machine. Businesses that have a dedicated generator room should ensure it is located far away from those working nearby.
Houston Workplace Injury Attorneys
While generators work to power many industries when they need it most, they are also dangerous industrial machines that must be handled carefully. Unfortunately, however, accidents in the workplace that involve generators can and do happen. At Ramsey Law Group, we have extensive experience successfully resolving cases for all kinds of workers who have been injured on the job. If you or someone you know has suffered an injury at work due to employer negligence and/or improper safety practices, contact us today to see how we can help you.