Winter months tend to be hard on all kinds of equipment because reducing the temperature makes it harder to move electricity through the system.
by Rick Pedley, PK Safety President and CEO
The winter months are particularly hazardous for electrical workers and maintenance teams. Freezing temperatures, heavy rain and snowfall, and strong winds can disrupt electrical wires and systems, closing off power to the entire facility. A downed electrical system is more than an inconvenience. Exposed wires and hot cables can put workers and pedestrians at risk of electrocution.
Large Tree Branches
Heavy snowfall can turn large tree branches into a potential hazard for workers and electrical systems. If branches can no longer support the weight of the snow, part of the tree will collapse. Falling branches could take out a power line or electrical wires if the components of the system are nearby.
Workers and organizations should trim overgrown branches or consider removing them altogether if they hang over a power line.
Unsealed Electrical Outlets
Cold air can seep inside the power outlets in a building if it doesn’t have adequate insulation. This makes it harder to keep the interior warm during the winter and will increase electricity costs. The cold air can also condense to moisture due to the difference in temperature near the outlet, causing it to short circuit.
All outlets in the building should be sealed leading up to winter. Workers can put their hands over the outlet to see if cold air is coming through. However, they shouldn’t use caulk or putty to seal the outlet, as this would be a fire hazard. A foam gasket is the best choice.
The power can go out without warning during the winter. Snow and ice can easily take down power lines if exposed to the elements. Facilities should prepare for an eventual power outage by keeping a backup generator on hand, so they can continue to heat and light the interior if the primary electrical system fails.
Going without light or heat in the winter can be hazardous if the temperature inside drops below freezing. The backup power generator should be installed correctly to ensure the exhaust doesn’t get trapped inside the building.
Electric Space Heaters and Circuit Breakers
Many facilities and businesses need additional heat during the winter. Space heaters can help warm indoor environments but can also become a hazard if the heater overloads the circuit. Overloading the outlet can lead to tripping a circuit breaker.
Resetting the circuit breaker should restore power to the branch circuit. Other loads on the branch circuit should be turned off to reduce the tripping of the circuit breaker. They should also consider contacting an electrician or facilities engineer to ensure the power panel works correctly.
The winter months tend to be hard on all kinds of equipment because reducing the temperature makes it harder to move electricity through the system. Older equipment may lose efficiency or require more power during the coldest time of year. These appliances and machines also lack the latest safety features, such as automatic shutoffs that help conserve energy. If the machine needs more power than usual, it could easily overwhelm the circuit.
Maintain all equipment regularly. Depending on the equipment, if it is older than five years, it may need to be replaced or repaired by a professional. An electrician can also inspect the wiring system to see if it’s safe to use.
Companies are responsible for providing a safe working environment. Since the weather can easily take a turn for the worst, the entire organization should keep an eye out for possible electrical hazards and report them. Various departments should work together to prepare the facility for the changing seasons. The sooner these precautions are implemented, the safer the company will be.