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Electrical Safety in Offices Following the Return to Work

Electrical Safety in Office

As the UK economy slowly and progressively resumes activity it is important that our places of work are safe places, not only as regards Covid 19 precautions but also that we consider the electrical safety in offices following the return to work. Going through this process there are some obvious questions and considerations. For instance:

  •  Electrical Safety in Offices, Why now?
  •  The Hazards Identified
  •  What are the standards and guidelines?
  • Compliant products for desks and office furniture

Electrical Safety in Offices, why now?

While none of us know what the “new normal” will be, we do know that safety will be a priority and while risk assessments are likely to be reviewed everywhere, electrical safety in offices following the return to work should be part of that process. The preparation for the return of staff as the furloughed period has an end date needs to happen now. For the benefit of people and to allay any natural concerns they need to feel confident when they arrive after such a long uncertain period that their company is prepared and has thought of their well-being. The social distancing measures in the workplace will often necessitate a physical restructuring of the spaces we work in. This will very often mean electrical supplies will need to be extended and or moved as desks and work stations are repositioned. This could be in general; corporate; private or commercial offices and include schools; colleges; universities and within the healthcare sector.

The Hazards Identified?

With the emphasis understandably being on the transmission of the coronavirus and all the necessary precautions regarding distancing, the washing of hands and identifying the early signs etc., electrical safety may not get the attention it perhaps deserves. To maintain the recommended distancing in the office environment will often necessitate moving desks further apart or introducing new desks, work benches or stations in areas perhaps where electrical supplies were originally not planned for. The temptation perhaps to fit plastic trailing sockets should be resisted as these DIY intended products are not typically robustly made and not intended for continuous use. Electrically overloaded plastic extension sockets notoriously cause many fires. They also offer limited overload protection and with set lead lengths can create trip hazards if left trailing across walkways and between desks. Whilst fatalities are thankfully rare, voltages of as low as 50 volts can cause an electric shock and very often the real injury is the result of a fall as a consequence of the shock.

What are the Standards and Guidelines?

There are several standards and guidelines that can be helpful in this situation. Of course there is the 18th Edition of the Wiring Regulations and where such organisations as the NICEIC can offer detailed guidance and services on all types of installation

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 makes it mandatory for employers to provide a safe working environment and the best way of demonstrating compliance is to ensure that products employed meet any national or international standards.

When it comes down to introducing electrical products into office furniture requires compliance to British Standard BS6396:2008+A1:2015. This standard for electrical systems in office and educational furniture aims to define safe and proper materials for construction and limits power outputs to provide electrical safety. The temptation in many cases perhaps is to fit a plastic extension socket without heed to the requirements of the standard but then you are running the risks associated with any future injury claim not to say any consequential losses.

Compliant Products for Desks and Office Furniture

The British Standard BS 6396:2008+A1:2015 requires that such products need to be made out of robust materials and sockets are individually fused at no more than 5 A when four outlets are used and no more than 3.1 amps when six outlets are used. Power strips of more than six outlets should not be used. There should also be provision for external earth bonding to any metallic section of the furniture or structure and adequate segregation should be provided to protect transmission losses if data connections are present.

British made power distribution units from PDU Online are manufactured from aluminium extrusion with durable thermoplastic power, voice and data accessories. Many bespoke variations are possible due the clever design construction with additional facility of linking units together or hot-desking as it is sometimes known. This is particularly useful when desks need to be separated and special lengths of interconnecting leads are available to reduce risks of any potential trip hazards are available upon request.

The requirements of most offices and work stations do not only require 13 A power sockets. Other power and media devices are now common place, such as:

    • USB Charging
    • Surge Protection & RFI Filters
    • RCD Protected Bench Units
    • Data Outlets

By adding in USB charger ports and RJ45 data outlets the functionality of the PDU make them more than just what is sometimes disparagingly called a power strip. Units are available for fitting above or below desk depending upon the need for access. Desk top power units have the facility for direct fixing or rear desk clamps as additional features to the standard non-slip feet that are fitted as standard. Below desk units have outboard fixing brackets making it easy to fix the underside of the rear overhang on desks or any vertical wall surface.

Under Desk PDU Image

Surge protection devices that will even out voltage spikes or transients that sometimes can be found on the circuit can be incorporated into the design to protect vulnerable electronic equipment which is the majority in these types of applications. Alternatively RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) modules can be fitted if airborne frequencies are a potential problem.

Additionally the 18th edition of the wiring regulations requires all circuits to have RCD protection. It is however possible that a localised residual current device can be built into the PDU for a more immediate and local safeguard particularly if adding to an already extended radial circuit.

With industry lead times generally increasing of late, PDU Online as a UK manufacturer of quality PDUs are able to offer next day deliveries in most cases. All products are produced under an ISO 9001 Quality Management System are 100% tested prior to despatch and fully traceable.

If you are having to restructure your work space and it involves your power distribution then talk to us. There are therefore many safety considerations when implementing changes to the working environment but as regards power distribution units PDU Online have many solutions for you to choose the level of protection you need.

To view the various ranges we have on offer, click here.

To build your own PDU configuration, click here.

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