portable generator safety - Kentucky Employers` Mutual Insurance

portable generator safety - Kentucky Employers` Mutual Insurance
Portable generators are used when remote electricity is needed, as well as during recovery
efforts and clean up from tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. These portable generators are
internal combustion engines, and safe work practices can minimize your chances of injury.
When renting or buying a generator, select one that is rated for the power you need. To
determine the necessary power, consult labels on any lighting, tools, appliances, etc., to be
powered by the generator. A rule of thumb is to select a generator that will produce more power
than will be used by the combined equipment, including the initial surge when the generator is
turned on. A plan should be developed to stagger operating times for various pieces of equipment
if the generator does not meet your power needs.
What causes injuries and fatalities?
• Shocks & Electrocution
• Carbon Monoxide Exposure
• Fire Hazards
• Noise and Vibration Hazards
Shocks & Electrocution
Generator users sometimes bypass the safety devices that are built into electrical systems. This
creates additional hazards since the electricity that is generated has the same hazards as normal
utility-supplied electricity.
• Do not attach generators directly into the electrical system of a structure (trailer, office,
home, etc.) unless the generator has been equipped with a transfer switch (should be
installed by a qualified electrician).
• Use grounded (3-pronged) extension cords or the cords that are supplied by the
manufacturer. Cords should be inspected daily for cuts, frays or other damages.
Defective cords should be discarded and never used. Also use cords that are rated for
their intended use. Replace underrated cords with ones that use heavier gauge wires and
are correctly rated. An overloaded generator can cause overheating and lead to a fire.
• Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI’s) should be used where electrical equipment is
being used in wet or damp areas. GFCI’s cut off power when a current is found to be
outside normal paths. Regardless of GFCI’s, any electrical equipment should be listed
and approved for damp and wet conditions.
• The generator should be properly grounded. Grounding connections should be tight.
Proper grounding methods should be outlined in the manufacturer’s instruction manual.
• If a generator is going to be used in the rain, it should be protected by a canopy. The
generator should be dry at all times, and its electrical components should never be
manipulated if you are wet (including your hands) or standing in water.
• Electrical equipment that has been submerged in water should never be used. Dry the
equipment thoroughly before use.
• If any electrical equipment begins to smoke or emit strange odors, shut the power off
Carbon Monoxide Exposure
Your generator must be sufficiently ventilated to prevent poisoning from carbon monoxide (CO).
CO is a toxic gas that is both odorless and colorless.
• Do not use generators in enclosed spaces or indoors. These areas include: crawl spaces,
garages and basements. Opening all doors and windows in these areas may not prevent CO
• To ensure sufficient ventilation the generator must have 3 to 4 feet of clear space on all
sides and above it.
• If your generator is being used outdoors, do not place it near doors, windows or vents that
could allow CO to enter and build up in occupied spaces.
• If symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea and tiredness are apparent, get to fresh
air immediately and seek medical attention.
Fire Hazards
Generators can be used for long periods of time. This can cause the engine to be hot while
running and remain hot for long periods of time after it has been shut off.
• Fuel spilled onto generators, when hot, can ignite.
• Allow the generator to cool down before refueling.
• Store and transport fuel in an approved safety container that is well-vented and designed
and marked for its contents.
• Keep fuel away from ignition sources and heat generating devices such as fuel-burning
appliances, lighters, matches and the generator itself.
• Do not smoke around the generator or fuel containers.
• Vapors can travel undetected for long distances to ignition sources.
• Do not store fuel in your home.
Noise and Vibration Hazards
Too much noise and vibration can cause hearing loss and fatigue that can affect job performance.
• Keep generators away from high traffic and work areas as much as possible to prevent
noise and vibration exposure to workers and by-standers.
• The use of hearing protection may be needed in areas where generators are utilized.
Kentucky Employers' Mutual Insurance Loss Education Department
The information contained herein is to be used for informational purposes only and is not intended to be exhaustive or a
substitute for proper training or supervision or manufacturers’ instructions and/or recommendations. KEMI does not
assume liability for the content of this information. KEMI, by publication of this information, does not assume liability for
damage or injury arising from reliance upon it. Compliance with this information is not a guarantee or warranty that you
will be in conformity with any laws or regulations nor does it ensure the absolute safety of any person, place or object,
including, but not limited to, you, your occupation, employees, customers or place of business. Safety and health remain
your responsibility.
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