Improper use of flexible extension cords is one of the most common electrical hazards. Extension cords should never substitute permanent wiring. Check the insulation and make sure it is in good condition and continues into the plug ends. Never repair cracks, breaks, cuts, or tears with tape. Either discard the extension cord or shorten it by installing a new plug end. Take care not to run extension cords through doors or windows where they can become pinched or cut. Use only grounded equipment and tools, and never remove the grounding pin from the plug ends. Do not hook multiple extension cords together to reach your work, just get the right length cord for the job.
Another thing to check is the electrical service panel or circuit breaker panel. Ensure a three-foot clear space is kept in front of these at all times. Also, clearly label each circuit breaker. Finally, if use of hanging pendants or electrical outlets is widespread in your work area, keep cords off floors and out of the way. Check pendants for proper strain relief, type of box, and guarding, if needed. In a recently visited facility, there was an accident from an unguarded hanging outlet shorting out when it was “caught” by a forklift passing under it. Fortunately, the forklift driver was not electrocuted.
Can You Hear Me Now?
Many crime scenes and other areas you might be working are inherently noisy. Excessive noise can result from traffic, construction equipment, or the machinery in use such as high-pressure air cleaning equipment and wet vacuum systems. Exposure to loud noise can result in loss of hearing. Noise-induced hearing loss is permanent and cannot be medically treated. This type of hearing loss is usually noticed by a reduced response to frequencies above 2,000 hertz (Hz). Since normal human speech is in the 2,000 to 4,000 Hz range noise-induced hearing loss is debilitating.
OSHA limits employee noise exposure to 90 decibels (dB) averaged over an eight-hour work shift measured on the A-scale and slow response with a standard sound level meter.2 If noise levels exceed 85dB then the employer must implement a hearing conservation program (HCP) for exposed employees. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) recommends a more conservative threshold of 85dB as an eight-hour, time-weighted average (TWA).3 Monitoring, annual audiometric testing, hearing protection, training, and record-keeping are required under the HCP.
A quick and useful method of checking areas for excessive noise is the “conversation test.” Standing one to three feet apart attempt a normal conversation with another person. If conversation is difficult or impossible then the noise might be excessive. Have the areas evaluated by a qualified person knowledgeable in occupational noise, measuring techniques, data analysis, and control alternatives.