Electrical Safety Awareness

Electricity can kill or severely injure people and cause damage to property. However, if the right precautions are put in place, the risk of such accidents occurring can be minimised.

What are the risks that cause injury?

  • Electric shock and burns from contact with live parts
  • Use of faulty or unsuitable equipment, explosion caused by unsuitable electrical apparatus or static electricity igniting flammable vapors or dust
  • Use of equipment by inexperienced or untrained individuals

According to the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, employers are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of their employees and the public.

You must ensure an assessment has taken place in order to evaluate the risk of any potential electrical hazards, it should cover:

  • Who could be harmed by the hazards
  • How the level of risk has been established

The risk assessment should take into consideration the type of electrical equipment used, the way in which it is used and the environment that it is used in. You must make sure that the electrical installation and the electrical equipment is:

 

  • Suitable for its intended use and the conditions in which it is operated
  • Only used for its intended purpose 

In damp areas, faulty equipment can become live and make its surroundings live too. Fuses, circuit-breakers, and other devices must be correctly rated for the circuit they protect. Isolators and fuse-box cases should be kept closed and, if possible, locked.

Maintenance of electrical equipment:

It is crucial that electrical equipment and installations are maintained to counteract hazards. Visual checks should be carried out by the users of electrical equipment, including portable appliances.

Equipment should be checked, repaired or replaced if:

  • The plug or connector is damaged
  • The cable has been repaired with tape, is not secure, or internal wires are visible etc
  • Burn marks or stains are present (suggesting overheating)
  • Repairs should only be carried out by a competent person (someone who is trained, has the knowledge and experience to carry out the work safely).

More frequent checks should be carried out on items more prone to becoming damaged (eg portable electrical tools and equipment that is regularly moved, or used frequently or in strenuous environments). Less frequent checks are needed for equipment less likely to become damaged (eg desktop computers etc). Visual checks are not generally required for small, battery-powered items, or for equipment that works from a mains-powered adaptor (laptops or cordless phones etc). However, the mains-powered adaptor for such equipment should be visually checked.

It is worth putting into consideration whether electrical equipment, including portable appliances, should be more formally inspected or tested by a competent person. Also, think about how regularly this should be done. Consider whether electrical equipment, including portable appliances, should be more formally inspected or tested by a competent person. Also, think about how often this should be done.

How do you know that someone is competent to do electrical work?

A competent person is someone who has been suitably trained and has the necessary knowledge and expertise to carry out the task whilst preventing any potential injury to themselves and others.

Some useful information to remember:

 

  • Make sure that any employees working with electrical equipment are competent and have been trained sufficiently
  • Ensure that a competent person has carried out visual checks on any electrical equipment before it is used to prevent hazards such as electrical shock
  • Check that there are no hazards such as trailing cables that can cause someone to trip or fall
  • Make sure that there are a sufficient amount of sockets accessible, check that socket outlets are not overloaded by using unfused adaptors as this can cause fires
  • Turn off and unplug appliances before cleaning or moving them
  • Make sure that workers look for electrical wires, cables or equipment near where they are going to be working to eliminate risks of coming into contact with live wires

Overhead electric lines –

  • Be informed of the hazards of working near or underneath overhead power lines. Electricity can flash from over them, even though machinery or equipment may not touch them
  • Don’t work under them when equipment (eg ladders, a crane jib, a tipper-lorry body or scaffold pole) could come within a minimum of six meters of a power line without getting advice. Speak to the line owner, eg the electricity company, railway company or tram operator, before any work begins

 Underground cables –

  • Always assume cables will be present when digging in the street, pavement and/or near buildings
  • Consult local electricity companies and service plans to identify where cables are located