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Data Center Aficionado & Creative Writer

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Dangers In The Data Center

There are several dangers in the data center that can befall technicians and even customers, and I list them with ways on how to avoid them.

There are all types of dangers in the data center for both the technicians and the customers. I think the latter is less aware of the various dangers that can harm or even kill them. However, some techs can be just as unaware, especially if they’re new to the job or industry. So what are these dangers and how can you avoid them?

Dangers In The Data Center: Cuts & Scrapes

The first of the dangers in the data center I want to discuss can be pretty insignificant. Servers usually have sharp metal bits that can easily cut or scrape the skin. However, there are instances where a technician or a customer can suffer a serious cut requiring stitches.

I’ve cut myself too many times to count. Which is why my employer would keep first-aid kits in the office. I even had employers give out mini first-aid kits for the techs to keep on their carts. And these came in handy because not only did they contain bandages but also antiseptic wipes. And this is something vital techs and customers should keep on their person because many areas in the data centers aren’t cleaned regularly. Especially the tables and chairs and other equipment on the data center floor. Thus, there are germs just hanging around on those items. And if one of them get into a fresh cut and you don’t use an antiseptic a bad infection could develop.

Dangers In The Data Center: Dropping Items

The second of the dangers in the data center I bring up is dropping items on yourself. Of course dropping a tool onto your finger or foot is going to hurt but you’ll be fine. However, dropping a 45 pound server on your foot or your head is serious. And I’ve nearly done the latter a few times in my career.

The times that dangerous drops can happen is when a person installs a server or a networking device in the rack on its rails, or pulls it out of the rack. Unfortunately, people can slide a server into the rails improperly. Thus, when someone goes to pull it out the server will fall. Or rails can break, and the server falls. The best way to protect yourself from this is to always install the device into the rails properly. And do not pull out a device from the rack fast. Always pull it out slowly so that way you can determine if the rails are working properly and the device is securely attached.

Dangers In The Data Center: Falls

Number three of the multitude of dangers in the data center are falls. Because racks are tall both technicians and customers must use ladders to install equipment or access it. The ladders could be as short as 3 feet / 1 meter but falling from that height onto the floor can cause serious injury. Trying to cushion a fall could cause a limb to break. Or one could fall the wrong way and crack his or her head against the floor.

Now I’m not a fan of heights and I loathed having to climb the 6 foot ladder to access the fiber patch panel on the very top of the row of racks. Yet, I would be careful not to lean too far trying to access a cassette in the panel. And I made sure to follow proper ladder usage, such as making sure the floor was level and free of any trash or carts that could roll and bump into the ladder. Now I believe improper ladder usage is the main reason why falls happen. The other reason being not checking the ladder before use and using a defective model.

Finally, Let’s Talk Electrocution

The most dangerous event that can happen to a technician or a customer in the data center is electrocution. And there are multiple ways this can happen:

  • A faulty power supply in a server or networking device
  • The Power Distribution Unit (PDU) malfunctions due to damage
  • Touching high voltage devices improperly

Thankfully I’ve never been electrocuted. Yet, I’ve been in and around areas that could easily electrocute me if I wasn’t careful. And death can occur from a shock from an alternating current between 100 to 250 volts. That leads me to some horror stories I heard. A Facilities team member told me about an electrician would forgot what he was doing and touched a high voltage device in the data center without the proper gear and died instantly. The shock was so bad his body burned from it.

So how can you prevent electrocution? First, always pay attention to what you are doing. If you’re a technician who works around high voltage always pay attention to your surroundings. Also, both techs and customers should check for damage to any power cables before touching them. Finally, don’t try to repair power supplies or any other computer parts that can hold voltage unless you absolutely know what you’re doing.

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