Read this article to learn about the different types of electrical product hazards.
What is a hazard?
Hazards represent any real or potential conditions that can cause degradation, illness, injury or even death to people or damage to property. If a hazard is not identified but exists, it cannot be controlled. Therefore, it is important to identify all real or potential hazards in a product before the production stage.
Hazards, and any factors that could generate hazards, are identified during the hazard identification step of the risk management process. Their identification is based on the harm to be prevented, the product’s intended use, and the specific regulatory requirements. A hazard could have one or several possible causes related to any set of events or circumstances.
How to identify electrical product hazards?
There are many ways a manufacturer can use to identify electrical product hazards. However, one of the best ways is through a brainstorming group process involving all parties directly related to the product (e.g. outside experts and product users).
The process of identifying hazards should start with examining currently available databases or any existing historical and hazard information about similar products. There are also specific tools that manufacturers can use for hazard identification. E.g. consequence analysis, ETA, FMEA, “What-if” analysis, AEA, FTA, and interface analysis. Each of these tools can assist in identifying hazards, hazardous events and situations. They can be used alone or in a combination of two or more. The choice of which tool(s) to use is left to the manufacturer.
The output of the hazard identification phase represents a list of hazards or hazardous situations and the harm that could be caused (BONUS – a free template for creating a sample list of identified hazards). A good practice is to create a list of the causes of each hazard or hazardous situation based on the tools utilised to identify hazards and share it with all parties involved in the risk management process.
10 Types of Hazards Present in Electrical Products
Electrical products can have the following types of hazards:
#1. Electrical shock hazards
This hazard manifests as an electrical current passing through the user’s body and producing different levels of harm. An electrical shock can result from unsafe access to hazardous voltage, high stored charges, inadequate insulation or grounding, arcs, etc. To eliminate such electrical product hazards, it is important to identify whether a product’s accessible parts can become hazardous.
#2. Mechanical hazards
Mechanical hazards (e.g. crushing, cutting, vibration, noise, etc.) can be caused by the electrical product itself or by the effect of some expected external factors on the product. Such hazards can be produced by expelled parts, inadequate mechanical strength and inadequate handling in normal use, among others. The way to deal with mechanical hazards is by using kinetic or potential energies and pressure.
#3. Chemical hazards
This type of electrical product hazards consists of emissions, production, and/or use of toxic substances. They can usually damage living tissues. If the manufacturer provides proper product cleaning or decontamination instructions, chemical hazards shouldn’t occur. The sources of chemical hazards are liquids with continuous/occasional contact and liquids in the area surrounding the product.
#4. Biological hazards
Biological hazards are organic substances such as bacteria, toxins from biological sources, fungi and pathogenic microorganisms. They pose a threat to the health of people and other living organisms. When identifying biological hazards in their products, manufacturers must consider the biocompatibility characteristics of the product parts in contact with the human body.
#5. Radiation hazards
Non-ionising and ionising sources create radiation hazards. The severity of these hazards depends on several factors, including the level of radiation, distance from the body and exposure time.
#6. Informational hazards
Informational hazards are due to the failure to transfer correct and necessary information to a product user. Unclear use of symbols and overcomplicated instructions are only a few of the contributing factors. An easy solution that can eliminate many informational hazards is providing proper instructions and training to product users.
#7. Functional hazards
Functional hazards occur due to relationships between functions and hazards. Analysing the product’s behaviour, mechanical design, and the design of circuits should provide the necessary information about the hazards that can arise during the product’s operation.
#8. Human factors and ergonomic hazards
These hazards are a result of human errors that occurred during the use of the product. Possible causes of human errors include insufficient qualifications, misinterpretation of decisions, employees’ inattentiveness, and failure to maintain working procedures, among others. Designing or arranging workplaces, products and systems to fit the employees who use them can help prevent the occurrence of ergonomic hazards.
#9. Heat, fire and tracking hazards
Fire hazards are an extremely complex phenomenon that can have a chain reaction, causing other types of hazards (e.g. electrical shock and toxicity). These electrical product hazards can produce various levels of burns. They are caused by the excessive temperature of materials ejected or accessible on a product’s surface likely to be touched by users. To prevent fire hazards, it is important to consider power dissipation, necessary energy to start the ignition, flammability of materials, and the maximum admissible temperature, among others. Heat and fire hazards are often present in batteries.
#10. Ageing of materials hazards
The last type of electrical product hazards is the ageing of materials. These hazards are due to the gradual process in which the properties of a material change due to biological, physical or chemical agents, corrosion, weathering and obsolescence. By considering the impact of environmental factors during the product design stage, manufacturers can take actions to prevent the materials’ natural ageing and take measures to maintain the quality of products.