Require Grounded Plugs on All Electrical Equipment and Install GFI's Where Appropriate

The National Safety Council reports that about 1,000 people are electrocuted each year in the United States. In 2005, a biology professor at Cleveland State University died as the result of an electrical shock in the lab.

By James A. Kaufman

OSHA specifies that all equipment in the workplace be grounded to avoid shock and possible electrocution. Removing or breaking off the ground pin is a bad and potentially fatal idea.

Most people are not aware of the danger associated with ungrounded equipment. This danger is compounded when the plug is a two-prong un-polarized type. If inserted backwards, the case of the appliance can be electrically hot. We find many in labs that are 50 to 120 volts hot.

This same problem can be caused by two other circumstances: (1) the electrician wires the receptacle backwards or (2) the appliance manufacturer does not follow the convention. In any of these three cases, if you near a ground, serious or fatal shocks can occur. Make sure that the ripple side of the appliance cord is connected to the wider side of the receptacle.

A ground monitor or circuit analyzer can be used to ensure that the receptacle is correctly wired. An AC-sensor can tell you if the case of the appliance or device is electrically hot or not. A Tension Tester will indicate if the receptacle is holding on to the plug’s prongs with sufficient force to meet electrical code specifications. All three tests should be performed annually on receptacles and electrical equipment in the lab.

The use of Ground Fault Interrupters (GFIs) can provide significant shock protection. They should be installed in any location where the receptacle is within six feet of a ground or water is likely to be present on the floor or surfaces.

Source: Kaufman, James A., Laboratory Safety Guidelines - Expanded Edition, The Laboratory Safety Institute,

Published In

Building a Dream Team Magazine Issue Cover
Building a Dream Team

Published: December 11, 2014

Cover Story

Building a Dream Team

"We will put our best team on this one,” is a common refrain in many circles and is regularly heard in laboratories as directors seek to reassure customers and other stakeholders about delivering accurate and reliable results by deadlines. 

Featured Articles

Laboratory Accreditation

What is the value of laboratory accreditation? Whom does it benefit? And what are those benefits? What is the standard of competence? What value does accreditation have from an internationally recognized body such as the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation?

Automating Your Lab

The concept of lab automation sounds almost magical, as if a sophisticated machine here or there makes a lab run by itself. Indeed, automation can improve the efficiency of a lab and more, but figuring out the best “here” or “there” creates the challenge.
We have updated our Privacy Policy to make it clearer how we use your personal data.
Please read our Cookie Policy to learn how we use cookies to provide you with a better experience.