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Electrical Safety in the Workplace

Around twenty people die each year from electric shocks or burns in the workplace.  Electrical arcing, overheating and leakage currents can cause fires and explosions, and often this happens due to the worker being unprepared for the dangers, unqualified to deal with electrics, or lacking in the correct equipment for the job.

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 detail extensive safety rules due to the huge risks that come with working with live electrical equipment, but the most important thing to do before working on electricity is to plan ahead and determine all risks, and do as much as possible to minimise them.

Employers’ responsibilities for Electrical Safety

When electrical equipment is fitted in a workplace it should be well designed, suitable for its purpose and installed correctly in order to minimise faults.  Regular maintenance should be carried out on electrical equipment to prevent faults from occurring which could result in short circuiting or overheating.

When work must be carried out on electrical equipment the employer should be fully aware of the type of work that needs doing and the risks that come with it.  It is the employer’s responsibility to reduce those risks where possible, for example, ensuring the worker has adequate space, access and light ,and putting in place temporary insulators or barriers to prevent live electrics from being touched.  If necessary, the employer should arrange for the worker to be accompanied by someone who can remain at a safe distance to administer first aid or notify emergency services should an accident happen.

Advice to Workers

Employees should only carry out work on electrical equipment for which they are qualified.  They should receive permit-to-work forms from their employer or supervisor which will outline the work to be done, details of the circuits and the possible risks.  Protective clothing and equipment should be worn at all times when working with electricity and, apart from self-employed people, it is an employer’s duty to provide this.