Fire & Life Safety

Electrical Safety

Properly written and enforced policies are essential.

At a recent meeting, a question was asked related to electrical safety. Specifically, who had electrical safety policies and procedures for their buildings? All 23 people in the room indicated they had no specific electrical safety policy or procedures.

In the weeks since that meeting, there have been several list-serve discussions related to the development of specific electrical safety policies and procedures.

In general, there are 20 policies and procedures that should be part of a fire and life safety program for a district. That list includes the following:

  • Electrical Safety
  • Hot Work
  • Flammable Storage Cabinets
  • Fire Doors
  • Construction Fire Safety
  • Cooking Safety
  • Fire Code Compliance
  • Space Heater Safety
  • Modular Furniture Requirements
  • Holiday Decorations
  • Tent and Temporary Structure Safety
  • Gas Cylinder Safety
  • Candle and Open Flame Use
  • Fire Alarm Response
  • Fire Alarm Delayed Evacuation
  • Fire Drill Requirements
  • Flammable and Combustible Liquids
  • Flammable Gases
  • Fire Safety and Extinguishers
  • Housing Fire Safety

All 20 of these policies and procedures included on this list represent areas most vulnerable to fires within schools. A review of incidents or inspection notes, on a national level or for your campuses, will most likely indicate that these are the items school buildings and occupants frequently struggle with. Changing behavior and gaining compliance is more likely to be achieved when specific policies and procedures are written and then communicated to the community.

All policy and procedure documents should include three key elements: a statement of applicability, purpose or scope, and specific procedures. Review current policy documents and ask, “how does this document apply, does it meet the intent to create a safer school building?” If not, reconsider the need for the policy or if needed, start a process to rewrite the policy so it is applicable to creating a safer community.

An effective electrical safety policy will communicate to all staff the proper use of electrical appliances and systems in your buildings. Procedures guide the implementation of the policy. They are specific steps to follow to achieve the policy. Procedures will guide daily activities; they are specific to each location and operations within that location. Procedures will dictate how and when certain steps need to be followed to achieve the goal of the policy.

Here are some general statements from the list-serve discussion related to electrical safety policies and procedures that can be used to create a policy and procedures document for electrical safety.

Policy: Facilities Management is responsible for ensuring that all facilities and special events are safe and that they are compliant with applicable federal, state and local regulations related to the use of electrical appliance, extension cords, electrical distribution and installation of electrical equipment.

Applicability: All school facilities and operations. Purpose: To establish a policy for electrical safety district wide that protects people, operations and assets.

Scope: This policy covers all departments, staff and operations.

Procedures: (this is just a brief example of elements that would be included) Facilities Management is responsible for inspecting, reviewing and communicating with all departments regarding electrical safety.

Only qualified and authorized electricians and technicians are permitted to install, service, maintain or repair electrical equipment or wiring.

All electrical equipment must be tested and listed by a recognized testing laboratory.

General Procedures:
Receptacles – must not be blocked, serviceable and free of cracks
Multi-Plug Adaptors – multi-plug adaptors are not permitted Electrical Cords – must be in good repair, not damaged
Extension Cords – The use of extension cords in lieu of permanent wiring, other than temporary use is prohibited.
Electrical Panels – Minimum 36-inch clearance must be maintained in front of all electrical controls and panels.

This electrical safety policy and procedure sample demonstrates the core components of any facilities related policy and procedure. It informs you of what must be done, communicates steps necessary to conform to the policy and demonstrates an organization’s commitment to regulatory compliance. It clarifies who is responsible to perform this particular activity and informs the district community what they can and can’t do related to electrical safety.

This article originally appeared in the School Planning & Management November 2013 issue of Spaces4Learning.

About the Author

Mike Halligan is the President of Higher Education Safety, a consulting group specializing in fire prevention program audits, strategic planning, training and education programs and third party plan review and occupancy inspections. He retired after twenty six years as the Associate Director of Environmental Health and Safety and Emergency Management at the University of Utah. He frequently speaks and is a recognized expert on residence hall/student housing fire safety and large scale special event planning. He also works with corporate clients to integrate products into the campus environment that promote safety and security.