Electricity is part of our everyday life and as such we can often forget just how dangerous it is. Electricity can kill or cause severe injuries to people. Non-fatal shocks can result in falls from height leading to severe injury. Poor or faulty electrical installations can cause fires leading to deaths and injuries. Electrical safety is important. In fact 1000 electrical accidents at work are reported to HSE and about 25 people die of their injuries each year.
What Are the Risks?
Alternating current (AC) and Direct Current (DC) electrical supplies can cause a range of injuries including: electric shock, electrical burns, loss of muscle control and thermal burns. Anyone subjected to an electrical shock who suffers from a loss of muscle control may also suffer a fall which could be harmful if working at height. Electrical faults can cause fires and be the source of ignition in a potentially flammable or explosive atmosphere.
Assessing the Risk
In a previous article we outlined how to carry out a risk assessment. Your health and safety electrical safety risk assessment should start by identifying the hazards/risks associated with electricity in your workplace.
Look to Reduce Risks
Having evaluated the hazards/risks you can decide how best to deal with them and what action(s) you need to take to use and maintain your electrical installations and equipment to help ensure worker safety.
In the first instance you should ensure that the people working on or with electrical equipment have suitable training, the right skill set, and the knowledge to carry out the task they have been assigned.
It’s also vitally important to make sure that all electrical equipment is properly maintained and checked to ensure it is working correctly. It’s far better to carry out regular “preventative maintenance” than to wait until a problem has been found through an accident. All new electrical systems should be installed to a suitable standard e.g. BS 7671 Requirements for electrical installations. For a list of electrical standards and approved codes of practice see http://www.hse.gov.uk/electricity/standards.htm.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as well as other organisations have produced guidance on electrical safety that can be applied to a wide range of businesses, industries and technical competencies. For more information go to: http://www.hse.gov.uk/electricity/information.htm.
The HSE have also produced a number of case studies to show where things can go wrong and how they could have been prevented.
Case Study Examples
Most accidents happen because workers have not been adequately trained, are being poorly supervised, or because the risks of the work have not been properly assessed.
“An employee sustained a 240 volt electric shock that broke both shoulders whilst attempting to test a newly manufactured appliance that had been incorrectly wired to the mains lead. Suitable precautions had not been taken to prevent electrical injury to employees engaged in testing work on electrical appliances. Employees were exposed to live wires at 240 Volts ac, there was exposed metal in the test area, there was no PAT test of mains lead prior to live test and no risk assessment for electrical testing work.”
“An electrical contractor received a fatal electric shock whilst examining a faulty air conditioning unit at premises owned and controlled by a Metropolitan Borough Council. Investigation found that the Council had failed to maintain the air conditioning unit in a safe condition, despite having had knowledge of its condition for some time.”
“A worker received a 240 Volt electric shock whilst using a pressure water washing machine. An investigation found the company had failed to: a) maintain the washer, b) provide a safe system of work and c) notify the existence of the factory to HSE. There was a high potential for serious injury from contact with 240 Volt electricity supply when using water washing equipment.”
New Broom Training
New Broom Training provides a range of Health and Safety courses and consultancy. We can provide help and advice in risk assessment. Contact us for more information.