Any electrical violation will always be considered serious and carry a fine. There are two reasons why OSHA will always pay attention to electrical safety during inspections:
- Electrical shock can be fatal. According to OSHA about five workers are electrocuted each week.
- Electrical fires burn fast. A study by the U.S. Fire Administration found electrical malfunction was the leading cause of the 4,065 fires in medical facilities between 2004 and 2006.
When OSHA is inspecting your practice, they will be paying attention to electrical violations and hazards. There are four types: water hazards, exposed wires, accident hazards, and emergency response problems.
Any outlet near enough to water to be splashed must be Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) protected. GFCI will shut off the electric circuit if it detects a problem. A GFCI must be used on outlets that can potentially get wet from a water source. This includes all outlets in or near the following:
- Outdoor spaces, including the roof
- Eyewash stations
- Dental water lines
If you are running an extension cord by a water source, the outlet it is plugged into or the cord itself must have a GFCI. GFCI extension cords can be purchased at any home improvement store.
OSHA is going to assume any wire that is exposed will be a hazard. They will look for and notice broken or missing faceplates, holes in walls or ceilings, frayed cords and breaker boxes with open areas. All circuits in breaker boxes should be labeled to prevent accidents. All unused circuits should be covered. All unused breaker switches should be labeled as such to prevent confusion.
Electrical wiring can create other hazards with misuse. Overloaded outlets, power strips and extension cords can easily cause fires. Wires and extension cords that are run across traffic areas, even under carpet, will create trip hazards. Dangling cords especially above water sources can be jerked or fall into water causing electrical shock.
Household appliances like space heaters, fans, microwaves and heating pads can be used in the office; but to ensure they are as safe as possible they must have a tag from a national testing laboratory. The device must also be in good working order with no loose or frayed cords. Fans should not be used in an area that could disperse aerosols containing germs, blood/bloody secretions or other body fluids.
EMERGENCY RESPONSE PROBLEMS
The time to find out about problems is not when you are having an emergency! OSHA will check and verify avenues that you may not think about. Take time now to ensure you’re in compliance with the following rules.
- Practice must have immediate and on-site access to a breaker box to shut down power. Power should be cut off immediately, if possible, in case of an electrical fire, as the fire will follow the wiring quickly and cannot be stopped by water.
- Exit lights and any other existing safety systems, like sprinklers, must be tested monthly and any problems promptly repaired.
Take your electrical safety seriously. According to OSHA, 12% of all deaths to workers are from electrical hazards.