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Safety Meeting Topic:
Housekeeping for Electric Panel and Utility Rooms

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Limpieza y aseo en las salas de paneles eléctricos y en las salas utilitarias

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Safety Meeting Topic
   
Safety Meeting Topic

Housekeeping for Electric Panel and Utility Rooms

Have you ever walked into a building’s utility room and found a treasure trove of old files, broken ergonomic chairs, holiday decorations, and perhaps even a custodial cart? Electric closets, utility rooms, mechanical rooms, data closets, and phone rooms — by any name they hold the critical utilities that keep a building powered and connected. To prevent fire hazards and allow safe access to workers, these rooms need to be kept clean and clear of clutter.

One of the main principles Cal/OSHA stresses for electrical closets is accessibility. Equipment needs to be “readily accessible” so that facility workers can move around and service the equipment without tripping, falling, or coming into accidental contact with hazards such as electric current, hot surfaces, etc.

Some basic housekeeping practices to ensure accessibility are:

  • Maintain at least 36 inches of clearance in front of electrical equipment as well as a minimum working space width of 30 inches.
  • Install equipment securely in racks or cabinets so that it is off the floor and seismically stable.
  • Mount equipment so that it does not need a ladder, stool, or other means to reach or work on. Workers should not have to move any equipment or furniture to access the area.
  • Allow enough space so that equipment doors and panels can be fully opened to 90 degrees for ease of access and maintenance.  
  • Cover all openings to the electrical equipment to prevent accidental contact.
  • Periodically sweep and clean floor surfaces of dirt and debris.
  • Keep walkways clear of materials.

Fire safety is a major consideration when designing or maintaining electrical and utility closets to not only protects the workers using the rooms, but all building occupants.
Tips to improve fire safety include:

  • Ensuring that there are fire-rated walls (or partitions) installed, depending on the equipment type and rating in the room.
  • Installing fire stops in any wall penetrations or openings in the rooms.
  • Keeping flammable or combustible materials out of electrical closets.
  • Installing a fire suppression system or keeping a fire extinguisher in the work area, depending on the equipment and room rating requirements.

Other safety features to include in electric and utility rooms include:

  • Signs to identify the work areas in case emergency access is needed.
  • Labeling utility rooms, electrical closets, information technology areas on the floor plan map for easy identification.
  • Securing the rooms so that unauthorized personnel do not have access. This step not only protects untrained workers from encountering the potential hazards in the rooms, but it also prevents the areas from becoming storage and dumping grounds.
  • Locking and securing the panels that cover critical electrical systems and equipment inside the rooms.
  • Maintaining adequate lighting to allow clear visibility for walking and performing work tasks.
  • Providing adequate ventilation to compensate for the heat given off by equipment in the room.

Often, storage is at a premium in buildings, but the electrical and utility closets and rooms are NOT the places to store items. Keeping these rooms neat, orderly, and free of clutter and combustibles keeps the workers inside and outside of the areas safe.

 

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Safety News is produced by State Compensation Insurance Fund to assist clients in their loss prevention efforts. Information or recommendations contained in this publication were obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the date of publication. Information is only advisory and does not presume to be exhaustive or inclusive of all workplace hazards or situations. Permission to reprint articles subject to approval by State Compensation Insurance Fund.

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