Fire & Life Safety (Focus on Preparation and Prevention)

Electrical Safety

Establish and follow policies to ensure compliance.

At a recent meeting A question was asked related to electrical safety. All 23 people in the room indicated they had no specific electrical safety policy or procedures. In the weeks since that meeting there have been several LISTSERV discussions related to the development of specific electrical safety policies and procedures. The discussion has now matured to what should be included in a policy for electrical safety and to a broader discussion related to what would be a comprehensive set of fire and life safety policies and procedures that should be in place within a facilities organization.

In general, there were 20 policies and procedures that should be part of a campus fire and life safety program. Depending on organizational structure, all 20 may not reside within facilities management; some may be found with health and safety departments or risk management. They are: electrical safety, hot work, construction fire safety, fire code compliance, modular furniture requirements, tent and temporary structure safety, fire doors, fire alarm response, fire alarm delayed evacuation, flammable and combustible liquids, flammable gases, flammable storage cabinets, cooking safety, space heater safety, holiday decorations, candle and open flame use, gas cylinder safety, fire drill requirements, fire extinguishers, and housing fire safety.

A review of incidents or inspection notes on a national level or for your campus will most likely indicate that these are the items the campus community frequently struggles with. Changing behavior and gaining compliance is more likely to be achieved when specific policies and procedures are written and then communicated to the community.

All policy and procedure documents should include three key elements: a statement of applicability, purpose or scope and specific procedures Review current policy documents and ask, “How do these documents apply; do they meet the intent to create a safer campus?” If not, reconsider the need for the policy or, if needed, start a process to rewrite the policy so it is applicable to creating a safer community.

Procedures guide the implementation of the policy. They are specific steps to follow to achieve the policy. Procedures will guide daily activities; they are specific to each location and operations within that location. For example, general office locations will have different electrical safety procedures than hazardous occupancy locations, such as labs working with flammable gasses. Procedures will dictate how and when certain steps must be followed to achieve the goal of the policy.

Here are some general statements that can be used to create a policy and procedures document for electrical safety:

Policy: Facilities Management is responsible for ensuring that all facilities and special events are safe and that they comply with applicable federal, state and local regulations.

Applicability: All campus facilities and operations Purpose: To establish a policy for electrical safety on campus that protects people, operations and assets.

Scope: This policy covers all campus departments, staff and research operations

Procedures (this is a brief example of elements that would be included):

  • Facilities Management is responsible for inspecting, reviewing and communicating with all departments on campus regarding electrical safety.
  • Only qualified and authorized electricians and technicians are permitted to install, service, maintain or repair electrical equipment or wiring.
  • All electrical equipment must be tested and listed by a recognized testing laboratory.

General Procedures:

  • Receptacles — must not be blocked or damaged, must be serviceable and free of cracks
  • Multi-plug adaptors — multi-plug adaptors are not permitted
  • Electrical cords — must be in good repair, not damaged and removed from service if cut
  • Extension cords — the use of extension cords in lieu of permanent wiring, other than temporary use, is prohibited
  • Electrical panels — A minimum of 36 inches clearance must be maintained in front of all electrical controls and panels.

This electrical safety policy and procedure sample demonstrates the core components of any facilities-related policy and procedure. It informs you of what must be done, communicates steps necessary to conform to the policy and demonstrates an organization’s commitment to regulatory compliance. It clarifies who is responsible to perform this particular activity and informs the campus community what they can and can’t do related to electrical safety.

This article originally appeared in the October 2013 issue of College Planning & Management.

About the Author

Mike Halligan is the President of Higher Education Safety, a consulting group specializing in fire prevention program audits, strategic planning, training and education programs and third party plan review and occupancy inspections. He retired after twenty six years as the Associate Director of Environmental Health and Safety and Emergency Management at the University of Utah. He frequently speaks and is a recognized expert on residence hall/student housing fire safety and large scale special event planning. He also works with corporate clients to integrate products into the campus environment that promote safety and security.

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