While backup generators are essential to ensure uninterrupted power, their use is not without risk. There are a few hazards are associated with the use of standby generators and worker and equipment safety must be maintained at all times.
Most people have several questions about running a power generator safely.
How should you use a generator safely? Are fumes from a generator dangerous? Is it safe to run a generator all night? How long can a generator run continuously? Can you get electrocuted from a generator? How can I reduce generator noise? Why is my generator vibrating?
This article will tackle all of these questions and help you avoid safety hazards while running standby power generators.
Key Power Generator Safety Hazards
The 4 main hazards associated with power generators are:
1. Electrocution and shocks
2. Carbon monoxide Poisoning by generator exhaust fumes
3. Fires and Burns from Improper Storage and Fueling Of Generators
4. Vibrations and noise
How to Avoid Electrocution, Electric Faults, and Shocks when using a Standby Power Generator
Standby generators can definitely get you electrocuted and shocked because they produce the same high voltage power as conventional power sources, such as utility power.
Standby generators actually pose a greater risk of shock and electrocution as people often avoid standard electrical safety devices, such as circuit breakers and fuse cut-outs when installing a power generator.
To avoid electrocution and electric shocks while running a power generator you should:
1. Always ensure that generator is connected through a transfer switch.
Transfer switches are an absolute necessity and you should ensure that your standby generator is not directly connected to your home or facility without a transfer switch.
You must always ask the electrician installing your backup generator about transfer switches during installation. Connecting your backup generator without a transfer switch can energize your electrical systems posing a hazard to utility workers and others.
2. Always ensure that the power cables are properly sized and connected.
All electrical appliances must be directly plugged into your backup generator using 3-pronged extension cables and manufacturer-provided cord that are properly grounded.
You must ensure that the cords used with your standby generator are not damaged, frayed, cut, or abraded.
All cables must also be appropriately rated in amps or watts for their intended purpose. Always use heavier gauge wires and avoid using underrated cables.
3. Always ensure that the backup generator is grounded.
It is important to ensure that all ground connections are tight in addition to being properly grounded. Proper grounding methods should be employed in consultation with licensed technicians and manufacturers.
4. Keep generators away from water.
Your backup generator should be installed in a dry area away from the elements, preferably under a canopy.
Avoid operating the generator in rainy or wet conditions as this can result in electrical faults.
Avoid using electrical equipment that is submerged in water, or is standing in water. All equipment connected to your generator must be dry and properly evaluated. You should immediately plug off equipment that begins smoking or produce strange odors.
How to Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning from Power Generator Exhaust Fumes
The toxic, odorless, and colorless carbon monoxide (CO) gas produced by generator exhaust fumes can cause serious poisoning and even death.
People are always advised to ensure that they operate any equipment with exhaust fumes in well-ventilated areas.
To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning from generator fumes you should;
1. Always operate backup power generators in well-ventilated spaces.
You should always avoid operating your standby generator in enclosed spaces or indoors such as in rooms, basements, and parking spaces. Opening doors and windows may NOT necessarily prevent the buildup of carbon monoxide in an enclosed space. For adequate ventilation, ensure that there is at least 3 to 4 feet of clear space above and around your standby generator.
2. Ensure that your generator exhaust pipe is installed properly
Make sure there is a proper exhaust pipe installed together with the generator.
The generator exhaust pipe directs the exhaust gases away from vents, windows, or doors to prevent Carbon Monoxide buildup in the occupied spaces.
Always look out for CO poisoning symptoms such as nausea, headaches, dizziness, and tiredness.
If these symptoms manifest in any individual, ensure that they seek medical attention after placing them in the fresh air.
Any area that is suspected of CO buildup should worker and equipment safety must be until it is ascertained that the danger has passed by properly equipped and trained personnel.
How to Avoid Fires and Burns when using a Standby Power Generator
Running your generator produces heat and the generator remains hot even after it has stopped running.
The fuels used in generators such as diesel and petrol can also easily ignite when spilled on hot generator surfaces.
To avoid fires and burns when running a power generator you should always:
1. Ensure that the backup generator is off when it is being refueled.
Allowing the generator to cool down reduces the risk of fuels accidentally igniting.
2. Ensure that all fuels are properly handled.
Fuels used in backup generators such as petrol and diesel should always be transported in a proper container that has clear markings of their content and is properly vented.
3. Ensure that the generator fuel is kept away from open flames.
You should ensure that you keep fuel containers away from heat sources such as running generators, lighters, matches, cigarettes, and water heaters.
Avoid smoking around fuel containers and avoid having materials that can cause a fire in the vicinity of fuel containers since fuel vapors can travel for long distances.
You should be careful about how you store backup generator fuels at home.
How to Avoid Vibrations and Noise when using a Standby Power Generator
Operating generators creates noise and other vibrations. Excessive generator vibrations and noise can cause hearing problems and increase fatigue, which may affect individual job performance.
To reduce noise and vibrations when running a power generator you should always:
1. Install your generator a distance from gathering areas and work areas.
Ensuring that running generators are located in appropriate areas helps reduce discomfort and noise.
2. Ensure that you wear protective devices.
While working near running generators, it is important to wear ear protection to protect against noise and gloves to protect against vibrations.
3. Ensure that your generator is placed on a proper generator pad
A good generator floor pad ensures that the generator is safely positioned and secured to the ground. This prevents unnecessary noises and vibrations when the generator is running.
When running or operating a power generator you should always adhere to the safety tips above to prevent the risk of serious harm and injury.
At Support.ke we are committed to ensuring that you are safe and your electrical equipment is protected whenever running your generator.