Prioritizing Electrical Safety in Healthcare

In hospitals, where every piece of equipment is designed to save lives, a hidden threat looms: electrical hazards. From defibrillators to MRIs, these unseen dangers pose risks of burns, shocks, and fatal injuries. Inconsistent safety standards can make the problem worse, leaving staff and patients unknowingly at risk.

In this blog, we'll take a closer look at common electrical hazards in the healthcare industry and how to avoid them to create a safer workplace for both medical professionals and patients. 

What Are Electrical Hazards?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA) defines electrical hazards as:

“dangerous situations in which a worker can make, or does make, electrical contact with energized equipment or conductors. When contact is made, whether directly or indirectly, workers are at risk of serious injury.”

OSHA recommends the acronym B.E.S.A.F.E. to help those at risk of electrical hazards. The acronym stands for the following:

  • Burns - These are the most common types of electrical burns. Three types of burns include electrical burns, arc/flash burns, and thermal contact burns.
  • Electrocution - This can be fatal and results when there is exposure to a lethal amount of electrical energy.
  • Shock - Exposure to electric current turns the human body into a part of the electrical circuit entering the body at one point and leaving at another.
  • Arc Flash/Blast - When a high-voltage gap exists and is coupled with a breakdown between conductors, a sudden release of electrical energy occurs. It releases thermal radiation and a bright light that can result in a burn.
  • Fire - Faulty electrical outlets and old wiring are often the culprits behind electrical fires.
  • Explosions - Electricity can ignite an explosive mixture of material in the air, such as explosive gasses, vapors, or combustible dust.

Latest Statistics on Workplace Electrical Hazards and Fatalities/Injuries

In the decade following the introduction of the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 70E guide in 1979, a remarkable reduction in electrical fatalities occurred – nearly halving from 582 to 310 per year. This trend continued, albeit at a slower pace, with fatalities further halving to 164 over the next two decades. Despite these improvements, the rate of reduction has seen a plateau in recent years.

Since the 2010s, the number of annual fatalities due to exposure to electricity has remained around 150. In 2020, there were 126 such fatalities, demonstrating a slight decrease but also highlighting a stagnation in progress. The percentage of workplace fatalities due to electrical exposure also decreased significantly, from 8% in 1980 to 3% in 2020.

Additionally, electrical injuries requiring time away from work have nearly been cut in half since 1990, dropping from 4,806 to 2,380. This indicates a growing effectiveness in employers' efforts to protect their workforce from electrical hazards. Yet, the stark reality remains that in 2020 alone, 2,380 employees narrowly escaped becoming a fatality, a reminder that luck still plays a significant role in avoiding tragedy.

The overall trend shows vast improvements in electrical safety across all occupations, but the presence of any fatality or injury is a clarion call for further refinement. No incidence of electrical injury should be acceptable in the workplace. While reducing fatalities and injuries might seem daunting, it is more achievable than it appears.

Inspection Checklist for Electrical Safety in Healthcare Facilities

Ensuring electrical safety in healthcare facilities is necessary not only to comply with legal standards, but also to protect the staff and patients from potential hospital electrical hazards. Regular inspections contribute significantly to environmental safety. This section provides a checklist for inspecting electrical equipment to ensure compliance with electrical codes in healthcare settings.

1. Inspection of Electrical Connectors

  • Check for Damaged Connectors: Inspect all electrical equipment for damaged connectors. Look specifically for plugs with bent blades or missing ground prongs, as these can pose significant risks.

2. Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) Assessment

  • Verify GFCI Functionality: Ensure that GFCIs are present where necessary and test them regularly. These devices are crucial as they shut off electric power in the event of a ground fault, thereby preventing injury.

3. Evaluation of Work Practices

  • Assess Handling of Electrical Equipment: Observe if staff are pulling equipment by its electric cord or using electrical devices with wet hands. These unsafe practices must be corrected immediately.

4. Inspection of Electrical Equipment and Machinery

  • Check for Faulty Equipment: Examine all electrical equipment, machinery, and wiring. Be on the lookout for frayed electrical cords, damaged enclosures exposing energized parts, and signs of wear and tear.
  • Inspect Electrical Cords: Flexible electrical cords are particularly vulnerable to damage from door/window edges, staples, rolling equipment, and aging. Ensure they are intact and free from damage.

5. Receptacle Condition Check

  • Examine Electrical Receptacles: Inspect all receptacles for damages, such as missing faceplates. Damaged receptacles can pose a significant hazard and should be repaired or replaced immediately.

6. Wear and Tear Analysis

  • Assess for Insulation Breaks and Exposed Wires: Regularly check for signs of wear and tear on electric equipment or wiring that could lead to insulation breaks, short circuits, or exposed wires. These conditions can energize the outside enclosure of electric equipment.
  • Monitor for Energized Equipment Enclosures: If a metal enclosure becomes energized due to insulation breaks or other issues, and there is no ground-fault protection, it poses a severe risk. Ensure that all metal enclosures are properly grounded and inspected for accidental energization.

Final Steps

  • Document Findings: Keep a detailed record of all inspections, including dates, findings, and corrective actions taken.
  • Schedule Regular Inspections: Establish a routine schedule for conducting these inspections to ensure ongoing electrical safety.

Electrical hazards in healthcare facilities are more than just an inconvenience; they are a matter of life and death. With our comprehensive course, Fire and Electrical Safety Training, you can be the change that ensures a safer environment for patients and staff alike.

Our course covers all the essentials of electrical safety in the healthcare industry. This expert-curated training will equip you with the knowledge to identify and rectify potential electrical hazards, making your healthcare facility a paragon of safety and reliability.

Don't wait for an electrical mishap to occur. Proactive measures are key. Click here to enroll and start your journey towards a safer healthcare setting today. Your commitment to safety can save lives!