There are many reasons for power outages including accidents, ongoing maintenance, and adverse weather. When there is a blackout, it is important that you have a backup generator to ensure that your business or home operations do not stall. And while backup generators are essential to ensure uninterrupted power, their use is not without risk. There are hazards that are associated with the use of standby generators and it is important that worker and equipment safety is maintained at all times.
There are 4 main hazards that are associated with standby generator use:
1) Electrocution and shocks
2) Poisoning by carbon monoxide from generator exhaust
3) Fires resulting from improper storage and fueling of generators
4) Vibration and noise
Safety tips for avoiding electrocutions & shocks.
Standby generators produce the same high voltage power as conventional power sources, such as the power from Kenya Power. However, there is an increased risk of shock and electrocution as people often bypass electrical safety devices, such as circuit breakers, that are part of conventional electrical systems. You should consider several safety tips to reduce the risk of electrocution and shock including;
(a) Connect To Transfer Switch: Always ensure that generators are connected with a transfer switch. Transfer switches are an absolute necessity and you should ensure that your standby generator is not directly connected to your home or facility without a transfer switch. You must always ask the electrician installing your backup generator about transfer switches during installation. Connecting your backup generator without a transfer switch can energize your electrical systems posing a hazard to utility workers and others.
(b) Use of Proper Cables: Ensure that cables are used properly. All electrical appliances must be directly plugged into your backup generator using 3-pronged extension cables and manufacturer-provided cord that are properly grounded. You must ensure that the cords used with your standby generator are not damaged, frayed, cut, or abraded. All cables must also be appropriately rated in amps or watts for their intended purpose. Always use heavier gauge wires and avoid using underrated cords.
(c) Proper Grounding: Ensure that the backup generator is grounded. It is important to ensure that all ground connections are tight in addition to being properly grounded. Proper grounding methods should be employed in consultation with licensed technicians and manufacturers.
(d) Keep Off Water: Keep generators away from water. Your backup generator should be housed in a dry area away from the elements, preferably under a canopy. Avoid operating the generator in rainy or wet conditions. Avoid using electrical equipment that is submerged in water, or is standing in water. All equipment connected to your generator must be dry and properly evaluated. You should immediately plug off equipment that begins smoking or produce strange odors.
Safety tips for avoiding carbon monoxide poisoning
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a toxic, odorless and colorless gas that has caused numerous deaths. People are always advised to ensure that they operate any equipment with exhaust fumes in well-ventilated areas. Some of the safety tips to consider in avoiding CO poisoning include:
(a) Ventilation: Always operate backup generators in well-ventilated spaces. You should always avoid operating your standby generator in enclosed spaces or indoors such as in rooms, basements, and parking spaces. Opening doors and windows may NOT necessarily prevent the buildup of carbon monoxide in an enclosed space. For adequate ventilation, ensure that there is at least 3 to 4 feet of clear space above and around your standby generator.
(b) Locate away from entrances: Ensure that generators are not placed near vents, windows, or doors when they are located outdoors as they may cause CO buildup in the adjacent occupied spaces. You should be on the lookout for CO poisoning symptoms such as nausea, headaches, dizziness, and tiredness. If these symptoms manifest in any individual, ensure that they seek medical attention after placing them in fresh air. Any area that is suspected on CO buildup should be avoided until it is ascertained that the danger has passed by properly equipped and trained personnel. It is important to determine where your generator will be located before buying one. You should ask for the supplier’s input on where to install your generator. There are considerations such as custom installation work including clearing and leveling the site, building a concrete base or burying wires underground.
Safety tips for avoiding fires.
Running generators produce heat and remain hot long after they have stopped running. The fuels used in generators such as diesel and petrol can easily ignite when spilled on hot generator surfaces. There are several safety tips that you should observe to avoid fires including:
(a) Turn off when refueling: Ensure that the backup generator is off when it is being refueled. Allowing the generator to cool down reduces the risk of fuels accidentally igniting.
(b) Proper fuel handling: Handle all fuels are properly. Fuels used in backup generators such as petrol and diesel should always be transported in a proper container that has clear markings of their content and is properly vented. Also ensure that generator fuels are kept away from open flames. You should ensure that you keep fuel containers away from heat sources such as running generators, lighters, matches, cigarettes, and water heaters. Avoid smoking around fuel containers and avoid having materials that can cause a fire in the vicinity of fuel containers since fuel vapors can travel for long distances. You should be careful about how you store backup generator fuels at home.
Safety tips for avoiding vibration & noise.
Operating generators create noise and other vibrations. Excessive generator vibrations and noise can cause hearing problems and increase fatigue, which may affect individual job performance. Some safety tips to observe to avoid vibrations and noise hazards when working with backup generators include:
(a) Keeping portable generators far away from gathering areas and work areas; where their power is being used. Ensuring that running generators are located in appropriate areas helps reduce discomfort and noise.
(b) Always ensure that you wear protective devices. While working in close proximity with running generators, it is important to wear ear protection to protect against noise and gloves to protect against vibrations.
You should always adhere to these safety tips when working with portable or backup generators.
Inborn Energy is committed to ensuring that your family and team members are safe whenever they are working with generators. We also ensure that your electrical equipment is protected when running on generator power.
Need help with your generator? We can help.
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