Electricity is an important part of our daily life and we use it all the time. However, if it is not handled correctly electricity can be dangerous enough to kill or severely injure. It also has the potential to cause serious damage to property. People work with electricity in a number of different industries and there are important precautions that need to be followed in order to reduce the risk of injury and death when working with electricity.
Did you know that approximately 1000 workplace accidents every year take place in the UK involving electric burns or shock? Around 30 of these accidents are fatal. Sometimes poorly installed electrical wiring or faulty appliances can start a fire, which can also cause death and injury. These deaths and injuries are avoidable, with careful planning and precautions.
The Health and Safety at Work Act states that employers are responsible for making sure that their employees and the public are safe when work is being conducted. This, of course, covers electrical safety as well. You have likely taken health and safety courses for your job, which will cover all of the important aspects you need to know about electrical dangers and how to avoid them.
Your workplace might also be visited by an Electrical Inspector, whose aim it is to reduce the number of electrical accidents by enforcing the law and providing workers with advice on good working practices. They will help to guide you in the technical changes required to equipment and working methods.
Electricity At Work Regulations
In 1989, the Electricity at Work Regulations were created and these regulations apply to all workplaces as well as the electrical equipment which is used in these workplaces. These regulations set out a number of important rules that must be followed in order to work with electricity safely.
They identify how electrical equipment, systems and conductors should be set out as well as making regulations on the competence of the people working on or near electrical equipment.
These regulations state that everything within the workplace that uses or carries electricity should be safe to use and that employees should not alter or abuse it. Also, if any electrical equipment has been damaged – employees are encouraged to report this to their supervisors immediately rather than attempting to fix it themselves. The regulations also outline the need for regular visual inspections of electrical equipment, which should be part of each employee’s work habits.
How to Reduce the Risk
What can you do in your workplace to ensure that the risk of electrical injury is reduced? Here are some ways that you can control the electrical hazards:
Maintaining Electrical Installations
How long ago were the electrics that you use in your building installed? Have they started to deteriorate over the years? It is important to make sure that the electrics are still in good shape, so you might need to install new electrical systems that meet a suitable standard. Check up on the electrics frequently and maintain them if necessary.
Avoid Overloading Socket Outlets
One of the main causes of fires is overloaded socket outlets with too many cords plugged into them.
This can be a serious electrical hazard, so try to avoid this as much as possible. It might necessitate creating another socket outlet to solve the problem, but this is worth it to eliminate the risk of a fire.
Another way that you can make working with electricity a little bit safer on your job site is to lower the voltage that you are working with. Decrease it to the lowest amount that you need to get the job done.
Also, you could consider using battery operated tools rather than electrical ones – if this is possible for the task at hand.
Choosing the Right Equipment
When you are choosing your working equipment, it is important to make sure that it will be safe and appropriate. You should select equipment that is suitable for the working area and check it over when it is ordered to make sure that it is safe. Make sure that all connectors and cable couples are not damaged and that cable ends are always firmly fixed. Don’t try to use makeshift repairs such as taping wires together.
All equipment should have an emergency “Off” switch that will cut off all power immediately and the whereabouts of this switch should be easily accessible and known to all employees. If you are using portable equipment, the socket-outlet should be close by so that it can be easily disconnected in an emergency.
Perform Frequent Inspections
It is important to always perform inspections on your equipment, so that you can spot any damage before it becomes a hazard. Electrical equipment needs to be maintained, or it will become dangerous. All electrical installations and equipment in your workplace should be inspected and tested on a regular basis by a person who is competent to do so. Also, all employees should know to report any damage or defects that they notice when using the equipment.
If equipment has been found to be faulty, it should be labelled with a prominent “DO NOT USE” sign and should be kept secure until it can be examined and repaired.
It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that all employees who are working with electricity are competent in performing their tasks. Even simple tasks that might seem obvious, such as wiring a plug, could be dangerous if the worker doesn’t know what they are doing. Make sure that everyone is competent and has received the appropriate health and safety courses before having them work with electricity.
These are just a few important things that you should know about staying safe when working with electricity. Electrical equipment has the power to seriously injure or kill, but this dangerous hazard can be avoided, with the right careful planning, good health and safety habits, frequent inspections and competent staff.