Electrical problems are frequently listed as one of the National Fire Protection Agency’s (NFPA’s) top five causes of fires in commercial buildings. These fires often result in higher property damage percentages than fires from other non-electrical sources. According to the NFPA, there were approximately 16,070 non-home electrical fires from 2010 to 2014, which resulted in an estimated $610 million each year in direct property damage and 200 civilian injuries. Many of these fires can be prevented by following the principles below.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters
A ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) is a fast-acting circuit breaker that senses small imbalances in the circuit caused by current leakage to ground and, in a fraction of a second, shuts off the electricity. A GFCI should always be used in wet or damp environments and all outdoor outlets.

Class C Fire Extinguisher
Fire extinguishers used on electrical fires should be rated as Class C, or dry chemical. Using the wrong type of fire extinguisher can result in electric shock and possibly spread the fire.

Damaged Cords/Outlets
Regularly check cords and outlets for damage and remove or replace any damaged equipment, including burned or discolored outlets and sockets and cords that are frayed or have cut, broken, or cracked insulation. You can prolong the life of electrical cords and outlets by pulling the plugs, not the cords, when unplugging equipment.

Extension Cords
Extension cords are for temporary use only. If permanent power supply is needed, install permanent wiring. Never staple or nail extension cords to walls, baseboards, or eaves. When you do use extension cords temporarily, make sure they are not twisted or kinked and keep them away from high-traffic areas.

Consult a Qualified Professional
Only licensed, qualified professional electricians should attempt to service damaged wiring, sockets, and circuits. Contact a professional to repair frequently blown fuses or tripped circuits, burned or damaged outlets, or flickering or dimming lights. Damaged electrical appliances should only be repaired or serviced by a qualified technician.

Establish a written electrical safety program that includes training and guidelines for employees who work on or around electrical equipment. This should include identifying electrical hazards, electrical PPE, procedures for working safely around electricity, lockout/tagout, and recognizing when equipment should be serviced or repaired. Training should also encourage everyone to power off or unplug appliances or equipment that is not in use.