Portable Generator Safety

Jun 18, 2013

By Staff Writer

generator-safety.jpgIf the electric service is interrupted at your home or you need power in a remote location, a portable generator can provide temporary power when and where you need it.

But as convenient as they are, generators are not without their safety hazards: The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that more than 80 deaths occur each year as a result of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from generators. And generators also pose potential electrocution and fire safety hazards.

Before you reach for the generator, make sure you know how to operate it safely.

Carbon Monoxide

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control, one 5.5kW generator can produce exhaust containing as much carbon monoxide as six idling vehicles.
  • Generators should be placed outside and away from windows and doors so CO doesn't enter your home.
  • Give your generator adequate "breathing" room: Leave at least 3 to 4 feet of space around the unit to ensure proper ventilation.
  • As a safety precaution, always have working CO detectors in your home.

Electrocution

  • Keep generators on dry, level ground outdoors. If you must use a generator in damp or wet conditions, protect the unit with a canopy. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also recommends using generators and extension cords with ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection in damp or wet conditions.
  • Check out extension cords that might be used to connect an appliance to the generator. Be sure cords are grounded, and do not use cords if they are cracked, frayed or visibly damaged. Ensure extension cords are appropriately rated in watts or amps for the intended use.
  • Never plug a generator into a wall outlet. Doing this creates an electrocution risk called "backfeeding."
  • Don't touch a generator with wet hands. Always dry your hands before touching the unit to avoid electric shock.

Fire Hazards

  • Let generators cool before storing or refueling. If fuel spills on the unit's hot engine parts, it could ignite.
  • Store generator fuel away from other fuels or combustible materials. Never store fuel in your home.
  • Keep fuel in a proper storage container with clear labeling. Store fuel on a high shelf or in a locked cabinet where children and pets can't get it.
  • Never smoke near a generator or the fuel.

Learn more about selecting and using portable generators from State FarmŽ.

Additional generator safety tips are available from:

The information in this article was obtained from various sources. While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. The information is not intended to replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. Nor is it intended to effect coverage under any policy. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information. We assume no liability in connection with the information nor the suggestions made.

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