How To Work Safely With Portable Generators
May 8, 2019
Portable generators are gas or diesel-powered devices that provide temporary or remote electrical power. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), both construction and general laborers regularly use portable generators for a variety of job tasks. While they are safe if they are being used correctly, portable generators can also be extremely dangerous.
Portable Generators And Jobsite Hazards
CPWR, or the Center for Construction Research and Training, says that construction and general industry workers typically experience fatal or nonfatal injuries from two different scenarios involving portable generators: shocks and electrocution or carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from poor ventilation. In most cases, these accidents are preventable but they happen too regularly.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen quickly or with little-to-no warning. It is a colorless and odorless gas that limits the amount of oxygen carried through the bloodstream. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), portable generators produce such high levels of carbon monoxide in small, enclosed, or partially enclosed spaces that they are classified as being “immediately dangerous to life and health”.
Because they can be so dangerous, it is critical that both bosses and workers know about effective ways for avoiding injuries. It is also essential that employers abide by lifesaving work safety and health laws that exist on both the state and federal level.
OSHA’s Portable Generator Safety Standards To Avoid Electrocution And Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
OSHA says that workers should only use portable generators outside – that means never using them indoors or in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces, like garages or basements. The chances for deadly carbon monoxide exposure are much higher indoors, regardless of how close to a window, vent, or door someone may be. Whenever a worker is using a portable generator it should be placed as far away from the work area as possible.
Carbon monoxide is known as a “silent killer,” but CO poisoning does come along with some symptoms. Some warning signs of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
- Loss of consciousness, and:
If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning or experience any of those symptoms, immediately turn off any generators or engines, get fresh air, and call 9-1-1. In some cases, it only takes one minute for a person to die from being exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide.
There are ways to avoid cases of electrocution and/or electric shock from portable generators as well. OSHA requires that employers take certain safety steps to guard workers against electrical injuries, like:
- Be sure to exclusively use manufacturer supplied cords or heavy duty extension cords that are in good condition (conduct routine inspections to make sure the cords are not damaged) and grounded;
- Keep the generator dry and do not use generators in the rain or wet conditions;
- Always shut generators down and giving them time to cool off before refueling, and:
- Use ground fault circuit interrupters, or GFCIs, which make sure that power goes out if electrical currents go beyond their normal, safe pathways
Employers are responsible for keeping workers safe and making sure they are not confronted with deadly hazards. Even though it is against the law to have an unsafe workplace where workers are injured because of unaddressed or illegal dangers, thousands of men and women get hurt on the job every day.
If you would like to learn more about how to safely work around portable generators, please visit https://www.cpwr.com/sites/default/files/publications/CARBON%20MONOXIDE_post.pdf. If you have more questions, please contact a representative at our firm directly.
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If you were injured in a workplace accident, please contact our Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Galfand Berger. With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, and we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.