Managing electricity appropriately involves much more that ensuring that the lights are turned off at night. Inappropriate or faulty electrical equipment not only leads to increased energy bills but is also a major safety hazard.
Buying the appropriate equipment is crucial
Although many businesses are looking to save money wherever possible, it is highly unwise to cut corners when purchasing electrical equipment. Items which are entirely suitable for use in a domestic environment; may simply be unsafe in an office or industrial situation where there is a much heavier workload. An example of this would be a domestic kettle, used in a busy office. The greater degree of wear and tear on the components makes it not only more likely that the equipment will fail more rapidly but also increases the risk of it becoming a fire hazard through worn cabling. Human behaviour also needs to be taken into consideration when managing electricity. Busy workers are less likely to notice (and therefore clean up) kitchen spills or to remember to fill a kettle to the minimum level before leaving it unattended. Both of these create additional hazards with regards to the safe use of electrical appliances. It is therefore likely to be more economical in the long run to pay the additional upfront costs of buying and installing a dedicated water heater, designed for use in an industrial environment, than to deal with the consequences of a fire caused by someone accidentally switching on an empty kettle.
Ensure that the equipment is properly installed and maintained.
When installing new electrical equipment, it is critical to understand its power requirements and how these can be met safely. If equipment is cabled, then ensuring that the cabling is both tidy and visible not only reduces the possibility of people tripping on it (potentially leaving the company liable for a personal injury claim) but also makes it easier for the cabling to be inspected regularly for faults. In addition to creating a written rota for the inspection of company-owned electrical equipment, it is advisable for businesses to educate employees on the use of personal electrical equipment on company premises. The costs of allowing employees some access to the company’s electrical supply, have to be set against staff satisfaction and productivity, for example an employee who is upset at the thought of having to travel home without a working mobile phone is likely to be less productive than one who can charge their mobile phone at work. All equipment which is plugged into a company’s electricity supply needs to be PAT tested and checked regularly to ensure it is working, so companies may wish either to purchase a supply of common chargers or to permit employees only to connect personal devices via USB.
Have a clear disposal and replacement plan
No device lasts forever and businesses need to plan ahead to ensure that they are ready to replace electrical equipment before it becomes too aged to function correctly and certainly before it becomes an active hazard. By maintaining a proper inventory and following a written maintenance schedule, companies should be able to monitor their usage and prepare for future requirements.
This is a guest post by Michael Turner on behalf of Inlec, who specialises in test equipment for hire.