Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May is Electrical Safety Month

Let's place a little extra emphasis on electrical safety this month.  With the end of the school year for many, and the beginning of the summer festival season for others, may is a good time to get your house in order.

Electrical hazards can appear in many work spaces around the are theatre plant (yes, it is a factory, we make a product, we produce goods, and a few bads).  Some of the most common electrical hazards I see around theatres involve power outlets, extension cords, and the interface between the cables and the item they are connected to (i.e. - failed cable grips).

Be sure to use Lock-Out / Tag-Out (LOTO) procedures so the equipment behind the cover plate is dead before you go poking around with a screw driver.  All it takes is one slip and you can come in contact with live parts!  It is better the circuit be dead than you!

Broken connectors present a very serious hazard because they can lead to miss-alignment of the power pins / blades, which can result in the live parts shifting and coming in contact with the cover plate.  This electrifies the cover plate (if it is metal) and may trip a circuit breaker.  The unseen danger may be that the plate and/or connector are not properly grounded.  If they are not grounded, you might be the easiest path to ground that the electricity seeks-out.

Broken or missing cover plates present a similar danger.  This allows small items like fingers and screw drivers to to come in contact with live circuits.  Where larger openings are present, larger items like music stands, microphone stands, and chair legs can fall-over and come in contact with the live wiring.

In the example at the left, the receptacle is missing the cover plate AND was a ungrounded connector.

Some facilities favor stainless steel covers for their look and durability, some use plastic (typically Nylon, but other formulations are available).  The Nylon cover plates are particularly durable in that the Nylon material flexes a bit without breaking, where other plastics tend to be more brittle and shatter when stressed.

It's not just the power receptacles on the wall that need to be audited - remember to check floor pockets, receptacles inside cabinets, and on ceilings, too.

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