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A Guide To Electrical Safety

Research from the HSE has found that approximately 1,000 workplace accidents are caused by an electric shock or burn every year. And, an estimated 30 of these are fatal. In 2015/16, 1380 fatalities or injuries were reported as a cause of electrical fires. The use of electricity is something that we are all heavily exposed to every single day. Few businesses can operate without devices, machinery and equipment powered by electricity. And, this is why electrical safety is so important. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know.

Why Is Electricity So Dangerous?

Because we use electricity every single day, it’s easy to become complacent with our knowledge of its dangers. Direct contact with electricity can cause serious damage to the human body. An electric shock may simply feel like a sizzle on the skin. Or, in worst-case scenarios, it can directly impact the natural workings of your lungs and heart. Electrical burns, heart attacks and interference with the nervous control system are all complications you can expect. There is also the secondary issue of accidents occurring because of electrical shocks. For example, if these happen while working at height, it increases the chance of falls, trips and slips.

The main reason why it becomes so dangerous in the workplace is that it cannot be avoided. Many essential workplace tasks are powered by electricity. This is why employers must take the necessary precautions to significantly minimise or eliminate the hazards linked to electricity usage. The good news is that these precautions are simple and can be implemented quickly.

UK Regulations For Electrical Safety In The Workplace

There are several laws and legislation in place to protect employees from electrical-based injuries. Some are relevant to specific environments – such as those where exposure to highly explosive materials is commonplace. Others cover every working setting, from the office through to agricultural businesses.

The Electricity at Work Regulations

Established in 1989, The Electricity at Work Regulations legislation applies to all aspects of electricity use in the workplace. It states that there are numerous responsibilities for employers, employees and self-employed individuals to help actively reduce the risk of danger. These duties include:

  • Having electrical installations that are designed to reduce risk.
  • Having a regular and reliable maintenance schedule to keep electrical equipment in good working order.
  • Enlisting the support of professional NICEIC approved electrical surveyors to carry out any required works.
  • Ensure that any electrical equipment used in extreme weather, temperatures or corrosive conditions is properly constructed and suitable for the application.
  • Ensure that all employees have the relevant training, information, experience and supervision to use the electrical equipment properly.

Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations

Replacing the Low Voltage Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1989, this legislation sets up the need for all electrical equipment to be safe for use. It applies to all electrical equipment that will be connected to the mains electrical supply. All items for use between 50-1000 volts (AC) or 75-1500 volts (DC) must be constructed in accordance with good engineering practices. It must conform to the existing regulatory safety objectives.

For the employer to abide by these regulations, they should choose electrical equipment with the UKCA mark.

Electrical Risk Assessments

With all hazards in the workplace, the employer must make sure an appropriate risk assessment has been carried out. Focusing on the electrical equipment present, it needs to:

  • Identify each individual risk.
  • Establish who could be harmed.
  • Establish how likely the injury/accident is likely to occur.
  • Identify whether the risk can be eliminated.
  • If not, find and establish a measure that can be used to reduce the risk.

This assessment can take place as part of the comprehensive health & safety risk review. However, you need to consider electrical hazards individually as the measures required to reduce them will be unique.

Managing Electrical Safety In The Workplace

Understanding the risk associated with electrical equipment is one thing. Now you need to implement measures into your workplace that actively reduce the chance of accidents.

Here are our recommendations on how to get started with ensuring your electrical equipment is safe for use.

  1. Carry Out A Risk Assessment. This should include developing and implementing measures to either eliminate or reduce the risk at hand.
  2. Assess All Electrical Equipment To Ensure Its Suitability. Items that present a hazard should only be used for their intended purpose.
  3. Make Sure The Environment Is Safe. Damp/wet environments, for example, pose unique hazards. You may need to consider reduced voltage machinery or using air-powered devices instead. If explosive materials are in the vicinity, there are also additional measures that need to be implemented.
  4. Implement A Maintenance And Servicing Programme For All Electrical Installations. This will ensure each item is in full working order.
  5. Identify The Type Of Electrical Supply You Have. You can do this with the support of a professional electrician. And, this information will help to ensure the equipment you use is suitable for use with your electricity supply.
  6. Provide Full Training To Employees. This should be done regularly and updated with the latest advice to keep everyone safe.
  7. Provide PPE, Where Required. You should also ensure all employees know how to use/wear this equipment and its purpose.
  8. Install Relevant Electrical Safety Signs. These provide clear, concise and exact information to employees and temporary visitors to help identify hazards and promote safe working practices.

How Electrical Safety Signs Can Help To Reduce Accidents

Pre-emptive measures are always a better option than waiting for an accident to happen. Providing in-depth training is the best way to ensure all employees have the tools and knowledge needed to safely work with electricity. And, alongside these, the right safety signs provide prompts throughout the day to help reinforce the message.

Electrical warning signs help to identify areas where there is a risk of electrical danger. Those manufactured here at Lasting Impressions abide by ISO 7010, using universally recognisable logos and colours to ensure the message is clear. Your risk assessment will identify the locations throughout your workplace where visual prompts would reduce the risk of injury. This is where you should consider installing a safety sign.

For example, Main Switch SignDanger High Voltage and Danger Live Wires signs can all be used – either individually or in unison – to identify various hazards around the workplace. Temporary signs, like the Electric Fence Sign or Men Working On Electrical Circuits Line, provide guidance to non-employees. And all of our professional safety signs can be fitted both inside and out, depending on the hazards identified during your risk assessment. For more information or advice about implementing electrical safety signs into your workplace, please do get in contact with us here today.