This is a post by Tobias Kumwenda
The power cuts and extended power outage these days have increased the usage of portable generators. Almost everyone nowadays is using these generators to meet their requirements. The generators are portable and helping people with their household usage and in small businesses. These portable generators are considered as a suitable resource of power bank to drive small and necessary equipment to go on with their work.
Understanding the basic dangers and following safety precautions to avoid preventable injuries, is the safety way of using portable generators.
Generators have gasoline engines that use flammable petrol as fuel which releases poisonous carbon monoxide in the exhaust smoke. The generator generates electrical current. Three things to keep in mind when using a portable generator: flammable gasoline, exhaust smoke and electricity.
Gasoline is flammable and gasoline vapors are explosive. The engine exhaust smoke contains carbon monoxide which is odorless and invisible. It can cause symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, breathing problems and nausea. It can cause loss of consciousness and death when it is inhaled for too long. This can happen within minutes, therefore do not run the generator in a poorly ventilated indoor space such as garage or basement. Do not run it where the exhaust smoke can enter the house through an open window or door. Store the portable generator inside when not in use, but always operate it outside in the open air.
Generators, generates electrical current, enough to seriously shock or even electrocute a person. It is very important to keep a generator dry and away from the water sources such as swimming pools, garden sprinklers or rain.
Portable generator safety
Portable residential generators are used to supply essential home power needs during power-outages, powering cabin appliance or tools needed during projects. Recreational generators are hand-carry units that are lighter in weight and quieter in sound. These units are often sold to outdoor enthusiasts.
Safety tips for operating a portable residential or recreational generator recommended by U. S. Fire Administration (USFA) report of March 2006 include the following:
- Read and observe the instructions from the generator manufacturer for safe operation prior to hooking up the generator.
- Always run the generator outdoors in a well-ventilated area. Do not run a generator in an enclosed area.
- Use the generator outdoors only (as indicated above) away from open windows, vents or doors. Deadly carbon monoxide fumes can build up. That is the reason to never use the generator inside of a home, garage, crawl-space or any other enclosed area.
- Do not operate the engine near combustible materials.
- Maintain your generator engine according to the maintenance schedule for peak performance and safety.
- Keep gas fresh. If you do not plan to use your generator for up to 30 days, stabilize the gas with a gas stabilizer.
- Before refueling the generator, allow the engine to cool for at least two minutes. Gasoline (and its vapors) is highly flammable.
- Place generator on level ground to operate.
- When using extension cords, be sure they are grounded, and are a sufficient wire gauge for the application. Heavy duty outdoor-rated cords will handle household appliance loads.
- Never plug your generator directly into your house circuit.
- If connecting a generator into your home electrical system, have a qualified electrician install a manual power transfer switch.
- Do not leave your generator unattended. If you have to leave home or leave it, turn it off.
To avoid carbon monoxide hazards
• Always use generators outdoors, away from doors, windows and vents.
• NEVER use generators in homes, garages, basements, crawl spaces, or other enclosed or partially enclosed areas, even with ventilation.
• Follow manufacturer’s instructions.
• Install battery-operated or plug-in (with battery backup) carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in your home, following manufacturer’s instructions.
• Test CO alarms often and replace batteries when needed.
To avoid electrical hazards
• Keep the generator dry. Operate on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure.
• Dry your hands before touching the generator.
• Plug appliances directly into generator or use a heavy-duty outdoor-rated extension cord. Make sure entire extension cord is free of cuts or tears and the plug has all 3 prongs, especially a grounding pin.
• NEVER plug the generator into a wall outlet. This practice, known as back feeding, can cause an electrocution risk to utility workers and others served by the same utility transformer.
• If necessary to connect generator to house wiring to power appliances, have a qualified electrician install appropriate equipment. Or, your utility company may be able to install an appropriate transfer switch.
To avoid fire hazards
• Before refueling the generator, turn it off and let it cool. Fuel spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.
• Always store fuel outside of living areas in properly labeled, non-glass containers.
• Store fuel away from any fuel-burning appliance.
Generator Placement and Operation
- Keep children away from portable generators at all times.
- Allow at least five feet of clearance on all sides of the generator when operating.
- Generators can be used during a wide variety of weather temperatures, but should be protected from elements when not in use to prevent shorting and rusting.
- Operate generator only on level surfaces and where it will not be exposed to excessive moisture, dirt, and dust or corrosive vapors.
- Inspect generator regularly and contact the nearest authorized dealer for parts needing repair or replacement.
- Always disconnect spark plug wire place the wire where it cannot contact spark plug to prevent accidental starting when setting up, transporting, adjusting or making repairs to the generator.
By The Numbers:
- African Americans accounted for 23% of fatalities, which is nearly DOUBLE their proportion of the U.S. population
- Storms account for many of the fatalities associated with generator use, with ICE/SNOW storms accounting for 46%. Hurricanes accounted for 29%
- 67% for the fatalities occurred when a generator was placed in the living area or BASEMENT of the home
- 26% of fatalities occurred when a generator was used inside an attached GARAGE or shed
- Between 1992 and 2012 nearly 80% of the 931 CO deaths were associated with generators
- 50% of generator related deaths occurred during November – February
- 30% occurred during March – April & September – October
- 20% occurred during other months
To keep away from the hazards from these standby generators, follow these simple safety tips:
Safety Tips While Using Portable Generators
- Place the generator in an open area where it gets more air and oxygen. If it is placed in a closed area as it produces high levels of Carbon monoxide (CO), if inhaled may cause dizziness, sickness or weakness.
- Use the generator outside the house, basement, garage, sheds and in similar areas. Select a better place outside the house, closed places, away from the windows, vents and doors to position the generator.
- Go with the manufacturer’s guidelines to install it.
- Use Carbon monoxide (CO) alarms to warn you when they emit high levels of Carbon monoxide
- Place the generator in a dry place and make sure it is placed away from wet areas or water outlets.
- Handle the generator with dry hands only.
- Check the wattage rating and connect only the matching range of appliance to it.
- All the cords that are connected to the external appliances and to the generator should not be worn out, tampered, kinks, cuts or damaged.
- Provide grounding to the generator and use three wires to connect it
- Never plug the generator to the house wall outlet to power your house. It is very dangerous and damage the utilities, due to “back-feeding”
Always follow manufacturer’s guidelines to avoid “back-feed” hazards and appliance damage by abiding following tips while using a portable generator:
- Run the generator at full speed and when it reaches its full power mode, then only plug your device to use to reduce the damage of the appliance due to power fluctuation
- The generator should always be plugged with an auxiliary generator panel or a double-throw switch to connect it to the main power source.
Adhere to the below following 10 precautions.
1) Understand Safety Documentation
Make sure that only those individuals who have read the product safety instructions operate the portable generator. In addition, take note of all warnings on unit labels and in manuals.
2) If Leaving Unattended, Secure the Portable Generator
Prevent the generator from moving out of position, and causing a potentially hazardous situation, by:
- Only leaving it unattended on a flat surface, in which there is no chance of rolling, tipping or sliding.
- Locking all wheels, or if no locks are available, inserting wedges under all tires to stop them from rolling.
- Positioning it out of the way of frequently used pathways to prevent accidental bumping, which can cause the portable generator to tip or roll.
3) Mind Power Cord Placement
Avoid running generator power cords through main pathways as they are potential tripping hazards, and if they are inadvertently pulled or snagged, you can damage the cord or generator outlet.
Move the generator as close to the work area as possible, and keep power cords guarded with cable covers or warning flags when possible.
4) Beware of Moisture
Use extreme caution if operating a generator near standing water. If this standing water is exposed to electricity, anyone nearby is at risk of potential shock.
In addition, exposure to water can damage your generator. Water seeping into unprotected outlets or extension-cord ends can cause breakers to trip or short circuits.
5) Don’t Overload Outlets
While splitters let you plug in additional equipment, they can cause more electricity to be drawn through the outlet than is safe. This will potentially lead to overheated outlets, damaged diodes, short circuits and blown fuses. If splitters are absolutely necessary, be sure to contact the manufacturer and ask about what precautions should be taken.
6) Refuel with Caution
Prevent fires by taking special precautions when refueling or working around fuel tanks.
- Do not refuel while the engine is running or hot.
- Keep fuel containers out of the way of heavily trafficked areas.
- Do not smoke or use open flame near an open generator tank or gas can.
- Keep a fire extinguisher nearby and know how to properly use it.
- Store fuel only in an approved container, and in a well-ventilated area.
7) Use in a Well-Ventilated Area
Exhaust fumes from gasoline engines—such as those found in generators—contain carbon monoxide—an invisible, odorless and potentially deadly gas. For this reason, never operate gas generators in poorly ventilated areas.
8) Wear Hearing Protection
Excessive noise can lead to hearing loss. When working nearby loud generators always wear hearing protection. This protection can range from foam earplugs to sound-canceling headphones, and depends on the loudness of the generator and other nearby machinery being operated.
9) Regularly Service Equipment
When performing maintenance on the portable generator make sure you:
- Do not work on equipment when fatigued.
- Keep the machine turned off when possible.
- Use extreme caution when working on electrical components.
If replacement parts or repair service is required, contact a certified technician familiar with your generator before starting.
10) Keep the Generator and Surrounding Area Clean
For the safest work environment, keep the generator and surrounding area free of debris.
- Remove all grease, ice, snow or materials that could create slippery conditions around the unit.
- Remove any rags or other materials that could create a potential fire hazard.
- Carefully clean up any gas or oil spills before starting your generator.
- Avoid working through or nearby standing water.