Generators and compressors can be indispensable for providing remote power and compressed air to operate tools, lights, etc. on construction sites. And overall, they are a relatively safe means to that end. Yet, like any equipment, they can present safety concerns if used improperly.
Safe operation of any power source begins by reading the operator's manual. According to John Garcia, Doosan Infracore Portable Power employs a host of personnel to evaluate codes, standards and best practices for its generator models. "These machines are built with safety as the first consideration," he points out. "In and of themselves, there are no dangerous situations if directions for safe operation are read and followed."
Like generators, compressors aren't inherently dangerous, but you need to read the manual to ensure safety during use. "Portable air compressors are a common power source on most construction sites," says Chance Chartters, Mobilair, Kaeser Compressors. "So common, that people may not be vigilant against the hazards of compressed air."
Avoid electrocution and other hazards.
Generators produce electricity, so be as careful with them as you would with any piece of electrical equipment.
Don't operate the generator in wet conditions, such as when it's raining or snowing, and don't set it in water. Always start or stop the generator only when no electrical loads are connected. Avoid overloading the generator by trying to operate more equipment than its output rating allows. "Prioritize your needs," advises Clement Feng, Generac.
Visually inspect cords. Make sure wires aren't damaged or crossed and check to make sure they're adequately insulated. Since overloaded cords can cause fires or equipment damage, check the cord ratings and don't overload them by trying to draw more power than they're rated to handle.
You can run the risk of electrocution if a generator isn't properly grounded. Grounding can be accomplished by driving a copper rod with a wire from the rod to the generator. The wire is then attached to a ground point on the machine. Some generators, such as Doosan's IR models, are internally grounded neutral to the frame to ensure performance and personal protection.
"Rely on a qualified, licensed electrical contractor with knowledge of local codes when making connections," stresses Garcia. Also follow the National Electrical Code Article 250 and other codes that address grounding concerns.
When selecting a generator, consider the available safety features. Many provide GFCI protection and covered outlets to minimize electrocution hazards. Some also feature additional guards, 110% fluid containment and emergency shutdown buttons and systems.
Here are some other recommendations for safe generator use:
Ensure adequate ventilation. Never operate a generator in an enclosed space, or near open windows or doors. "The drafts can draw the [engine] exhaust into the building," says Feng. "Carbon monoxide is odorless, so you won't even know you're at risk."
Be cautious during refueling. Fuel is flammable and explosive. Generator parts will be hot during operation, which can create a hazardous situation if fuel comes in contact with them. Don't overfill the tank or spill fuel. And never add fuel while the generator is running or hot; shut it off and allow it to cool before refueling.
Handle with care. While some generators are meant to be portable, they may still weigh several hundred pounds, so care should be taken during transport. Towable models should not be towed in excess of 65 mph; use chock blocks when they're not connected to the tow vehicle.
Be aware of moving parts. Don't put anything, including appendages, near the moving parts of a generator or a compressor. "We have a voltage selector switch on the inside of the machine," notes Chuck Westhofen, Atlas Copco. "That way, contractors can't change it while the unit is running."
Respect high pressure