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California State University, Long Beach
College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Electrical Safety

This guide was composed with help from Cal/OSHA and State Fire Marshal experts after the college was issued a series of electrical safety citations. Strict adherence to this guide is mandatory in order to keep our workplaces safe from electrocution and fire hazards. Faculty and staff must frequently check their work areas for any of the unsafe conditions listed below. People are often assigned workstations already set-up improperly. An unsafe condition must be fixed immediately. Some power strips are available through CNSM Safety that can correct some problems. "Out of Service" tags are available to clearly mark unsafe equipment that has been taken out of service pending repair. The CNSM Shop assigns high priority to such repairs, but some work requires Facilities Electricians and a formal Work Order.

Unsafe Conditions - Correct Immediately

  1. BLOCKED ELECTRICAL PANELS: Do not block electrical panels, boxes or emergency shut-off switches. A minimum of 30 inches must be kept clear in front of these fixtures. Even the floor in front of the panels must be completely clear -- no storage is allowed within the 30' zone. Yellow tape can be applied to serve as a reminder.
  2. LIVE WIRES: Never use electrical equipment with exposed high voltage contacts or twist-on electrical connectors. Never use a device while an access panels is off and the wires are visible.
  3. BAD CORDS: Never use power cords with broken/cracked insulation, tape repairs, a missing ground prong or any other plug modification. A functioning 'strain relief' must be present on every cord so the wires can't pull loose.
  4. TOO MANY ITEMS ON AN OUTLET: Never use a device that converts a normal two-plug outlet into more outlets, unless the converter has a built in circuit breaker or fuse. When such a circuit-breaker-equipped adaptor is used, ONLY ONE per wall plug is allowed. Never plug two power strips together. When power strips are plugged in together, this condition is called a "daisy chain". Daisy chains are expressly forbidden on campus.
  5. MISUSE OF EXTENSION CORDS: Extension cords are only allowed for short-term use, with a 90 day limit. Extension cords MAY NOT be attached to building surfaces, run through holes in walls, ceilings, floors, be run through doorways or windows, behind moldings, in walls, through ceilings, or under carpets. Use of anti-trip tape or moldings is OK. If power to a distant item is needed for > 90 days, use a single breaker-equipped power strip instead. Submitting a Facilities Work Order for extra outlets is the recommended course of action.
  6. LACK OF GROUNDING:  Don't use ungrounded "two wire" metal lamps, tools, or motors if they are placed on or attached to metal desks, tables or equipment, or whenever the floor is metal or is subject to water splash.  Cal/OSHA REQUIRES "Three Wire" grounded power in these situations.  Many of our labs have bare concrete floors which become dangerously conductive when wet – especially with seawater.  ADAPTERS THAT BYPASS THE GROUNDING PRONG OF A "THREE WIRE" PLUG ARE FORBIDDEN on campus.  Some exceptions exist - always contact CNSM Safety if in doubt.
  7. UNDERRATED ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT: Be cautious in using ordinary electric items in wet, corrosive, or areas containing flammable vapors. Cords and equipment used outdoors, or in 'cold rooms' and aquarium areas must be designed for that extreme environment. Such equipment is fabricated with special materials, insulation, and connectors which look different and bear special markings.
  8. EQUIPMENT MISUSE: Don't use electric/electronic devices that are designed to be securely mounted and grounded (such as 'rack mounted' equipment) without such proper mounting and grounding (for example, used while unsecured upon a table).
  9. FLEXIBLE POWER CORDS USED TO SUPPLY POWER TO FIXED EQUIPMENT: Permanently mounted equipment must get power from conduit - Facilities Management electricians must do the job.