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Raising Electrical Safety Awareness with Training and the HSE

Raising Electrical Safety Awareness with Training and the HSE

Under UK law, employers are responsible for ensuring the safety and health of their employees, and this includes electrical safety. Each year, accidents occur involving electric shock or burns, while contact with overhead power lines are the cause for most fatal accidents.

How employers can take precaution steps to make the workplace safe

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is a wealth of advice and useful resources. Here’s an example of what you can find:

According to the HSE, the main hazards of working with electricity are:

  • electric shock and burns from contact with live parts
  • injury from exposure to arcing, fire from faulty electrical equipment or installations
  • explosion caused by unsuitable electrical apparatus or static electricity igniting flammable vapours or dusts, for example in a spray paint booth

Electric shocks can also lead to other types of injury, for example by causing a fall from ladders or scaffolds

Here’s what the HSE advises employers to do:

Conduct risk assessments

Ensure an assessment has been made of any electrical hazards, which covers:

  • who could be harmed
  • how the level of risk was established
  • what precautions are taken to control this risk

The risk assessment should take into consideration the type of electrical equipment used, how 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 wet surroundings, unsuitable 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. Keep isolators and fuse-box cases closed and, if possible, locked.

Cables, plugs, sockets, and fittings must be robust enough and adequately protected for the working environment. Ensure that machinery has an accessible switch or isolator to cut off the power quickly in an emergency.

HSE Nine critical points for employers to remember

  • Ensure that workers know how to use the electrical equipment safely
  • Make sure enough sockets are available. Check that unfused adaptors are not overloading socket outlets as this can cause fires
  • Ensure there are no trailing cables that can cause people to trip or fall
  • Switch off and unplug appliances before cleaning or adjusting them
  • Ensure everyone looks for electrical wires, cables or equipment near where they are going to work and check for signs warning of dangers from electricity, or any other hazard. Checks should be made around the job, and remember that electrical cables may be within walls, floors and ceilings (especially when drilling into these locations)
  • Make sure anyone working with electricity has sufficient skills, knowledge, and experience to do so. Incorrectly wiring a plug can be dangerous and lead to fatal accidents or fires
  • Stop using equipment immediately if it appears to be faulty – have it checked by a competent person
  • Ensure any electrical equipment brought to work by employees, or any hired or borrowed, is appropriate for use before using it and remains suitable by being maintained as necessary
  • Consider using a residual current device (RCD) between the electrical supply and the equipment, especially when working outdoors, or within a wet or confined place (see HSE’s electrical safety at work site)

How employers can take precaution steps to make the workplace safe

The law sets a minimum standard for companies to meet when it comes to ensuring the health and safety of employees, but any employer that takes this duty seriously should be going above-and-beyond the legislation.  Whether it’s electrical safety-related work practices, maintenance requirements or administrative controls, organisations should be doing everything practically possible – and not just reasonable – to safeguard their employees. Central to this is ensuring employees at all levels of the organisation, across any location, are trained and prepared to meet the risks relevant to their work environment.  With comprehensive training, employers can protect employees against both common and role-specific workplace hazards by improving their awareness of potential risks and testing the application of knowledge around the critical hazards and risks that could threaten their health and safety.

If you have not already done so, please take the time to visit the HSE’s website. It is a wealth of advice and useful resources.

I also suggest reading:

Electricity at work: Safe working practices HSG85 (Second edition) HSE Books 2003 ISBN 978 0 7176 2164 4 www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/hsg85.htm

Memorandum of guidance on the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989. Guidance on Regulations HSR25 (Second edition) HSE Books 2007 ISBN 978 0 7176 6228 9 www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/hsr25.htm

Skillsoft’s Environmental, Health & Safety (EHS) Compliance Training offers the training your organization needs to ensure your employees recognize electrical hazards and work safely.

Request a demo

Andy Nickolls is the Director of Compliance Solutions at Skillsoft EMEA.

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