Portable generators are a factor in a number of regrettable incidents involving death and injury annually. Most of these incidents concern CO poisoning as a result of using portable generators in fully or partially enclosed areas. A minority of them are due to incorrect installation and set-up, while still others are because of a lack of awareness of or attention to obvious safety guidelines. It is worth noting that these tragic events were entirely avoidable.
Portable generators become harmful to your health and physical safety, your property and your life when they are not properly used. A portable generator can be used without any problems if it is set up in the correct manner and used as intended. There are six prominent dangers connected to portable generators. These dangers can be avoided by following expert advice on portable generator safety tips. Each risk has its own do’s and don’ts to assist you.
1. Carbon Monoxide PoisoningWhen a portable generator is on a toxic gas is emitted. This deadly gas is known as CO – carbon monoxide. CO lacks any color or odor and so it cannot be detected by sight or scent. Many individuals suffer CO poisoning without even knowing that they are in danger. The chance of being poisoned by carbon monoxide can be avoided by only using a portable generator in specific areas approved by experts. Here are some tips on minimizing this danger:
- • DO run the device outdoors because they are not meant to be used indoors at any time. Though it may be tempting, avoid using a portable generator in garages, basements or crawlspaces. Keep away from enclosed spaces, even if they are partially exposed or have ventilation.
- • DON’T place a portable generator near a door, window, vent or other opening.. It is often stated that opening windows and doors or using a fan can mitigate the effects of CO emission – this is a dangerous myth and is entirely false. Even when a generator is correctly placed outdoors, CO can leak through doors, windows and openings such as vents.
- • DO alert people in the vicinity about the presence of the portable generator and the associated dangers of carbon monoxide so that they can keep an eye out for possible symptoms. These symptoms include dizziness, headache, fatigue and nausea. If someone near the device displays these symptoms expose them to fresh air right away and get medical attention as soon as possible. Let any medics that arrive know that carbon monoxide poisoning is a risk. Contact your local fire brigade so that they can ensure the scene is safe to re-enter.
- • DO diligently follow any and all installation and running instructions that accompany your device.
- • DO install life-saving CO alarms. Ensure that the alarms always meet the most recent safety requirements and regularly test and replace batteries.
2. Fire Hazards Caused By Incorrect Refueling
This is an important warning because portable generators get scorching-hot. Always turn the unit off and allow it to cool before refueling. An accompanying manual should state the adequate refueling temperature.
- DON’T refuel a portable generator if it is still on.
- DON’T refuel a device that has just shut down.
Portable generators retain heat for a long time and can easily be the root of a fire if gasoline, or its vapors, is introduced to the environment. It can be time-consuming but always allow a unit to fully cool before refueling. Even if you are a professional working within time constraints and need the generator to power something immediately, just wait. Do not be tempted to ignore safety guidelines and put yourself in danger just because you’re in a rush.
3. Improper Installation and Set-UpA number of accidents transpire because of incorrect set up and installation of a generator. Follow these guidelines to avoid putting yourself in danger when setting up a portable generator:
- DON’T ‘back feed’ – this is when someone tries to power a house by plugging the generator’s output into a wall socket. In theory this should feed all of a household’s outlets while in practice this is an incredibly dangerous thing to do. It circumvents any circuit protection and puts anyone using the same utility transformer at risk of electrocution.
- Only a qualified electrician should ever connect a house’s wiring to a portable generator as an emergency solution. If the issue recurs, consider installing a permanent generator.
- DO plug items into the generator using an outdoor extension cord. The cord should not have any damage and must be properly equipped to deal with all of the appliances you wish to connect. It should have a total of three prongs, including a grounding pin.
4. Electrical HazardsA portable generator is just as dangerous as any normal power source and should be given the same caution. The majority of generators do not have inbuilt protection and so they can cause much more damage if someone is electrocuted. To avoid being electrocuted, always wear shoes when connecting an appliance and ensure that your entire body is dry.
- DO keep the device free of knotted cords and other unsafe conditions.
- DON’T connect too many appliances at once as this will overload the portable generator.
- DON’T leave a device uncovered in wet weather or use a device that has been exposed to water.
5. Improper Generator and Fuel Storage Hazards
- DON’T keep fuel in your house. Flammable fuels such as diesel, gasoline, propane, etc., should be kept in clearly-labeled containers away from the main household.
- DON’T leave fuel somewhere it can absorb heat such as next to a generator. Avoid storing fuel near a fuel-burning item like a water heater. Ensure that the fuel is properly sealed to avoid spills which could be ignited by a pilot light.
6. Noise Hazards and Vibration AccidentsSome models of portable generator can vibrate, leading them to move slightly.
- DON’T run the device in an area where it could fall, such as on a truck bed.
- DO scan your area first to identify the likelihood of a fall.
- DO use ear protection while working with select portable generators.