Electricity can be very useful. It powers our homes, provides us with light, lets us use our electronic products, keeps our fridges cold and our ovens hot and plays a huge role in many of our everyday activities. However, although electricity is very convenient and useful in the right context, when it is used unsafely it can be very dangerous and even deadly.
Anyone who works in a profession that deals directly with electricity is at risk of electrocution or serious injury if they do not manage the health and safety concerns correctly. The electricity that comes through the average electrical outlet in a regular business or a home has the power to cause death by electrocution.
The Dangers of Electrical Currents
An electrical current can cause serious injury or death to a person if they come into contact with it. This can include electric shock, burns, falls and electrocution. If a person experiences direct contact with an electrical conductor, the current will travel through their body and will interfere with normal electrical signals between the muscles and the brain. This could cause the heart to stop beating or the lungs to stop breathing. Also, electrical energy generates heat which can cause thermal burns. A contact burn from being shocked by electricity can burn very deep into your internal tissues.
Another serious risk is when a person is working on scaffolding or a ladder. If they are shocked with electricity, this can cause a muscle contraction or a startled reaction – which can cause them to fall from the scaffold or ladder. The fall can cause serious injuries or even death.
- Electrical safety courses
- Working at height courses
- Learn how to reduce the risks from working at height
- Why does working at height pose serious risks?
Who is at Risk?
Which employees are most at risk of electrical danger? Electrical risks are present in almost every workplace, but those who are most at risk include maintenance staff, construction workers and those working with electrical equipment and machinery. One of the most common causes of accidents is when employees are working on or near some electrical equipment which they assume to be dead, but is actually live. Also, sometimes workers are injured because they are attempting to carry out the work without the proper training or protective equipment. Other times, injuries occur because employees use equipment that is old and faulty and should be replaced, but it continues to be operated anyway and malfunctions.
Risk Assessments Are Crucial
It is always essential to perform a risk assessment before going ahead with the work that you are planning, so that you can make sure that you are covered for all potential electrical hazards. Look for any overhead power lines that might be in your way, electrical wiring within the workplace or cables buried in the ground.
This is especially important if you will be digging in the earth or cutting into surfaces, because you will need to use a cable locator so that you don’t disturb buried power lines. Also, before you start any work you should ask to see plans of the property that include the electrical installation.
If you are ever in doubt about the electrical risks, you should stop work immediately and consult an expert.
Safety Tips When Working With ElectricityWhen working with or around electricity, there are a number of things that you can do in order to make the situation safer for everyone involved. Here are some important safety tips that should always be followed when working with electricity:
- It is always a good idea to inspect all electrical equipment including extension cords, power bars and cords before using them. If you notice wear and tear, replace the equipment immediately.
- Communication is key – everyone should be aware of what is going on around them.
- Don’t nail or staple an extension cord to the floor – use tape instead. The nail or the staple can cause a shock hazard.
- Always make sure that the extension cord or the equipment that you are using is rated for the appropriate amperage and wattage level.
- If an electrical outlet is unusually warm, this is usually a warning sign that there is an unsafe wiring situation. In this situation, unplug all cords and call an electrician to examine the wiring.
- When you have to work near electrical wiring, ask for the electrical supply to be turned off. Make sure that the power is off before proceeding and confirm that it cannot be turned on again without your agreement.
- Always put up danger notices when there are live electrical circuits and give your co-workers a warning of where it is safe and not safe to work.
- All workers should wear the correct health and safety personal protective equipment (PPE) when working with electricity. This equipment should be readily available and well maintained and its use should be enforced.
- Look around for any potential flammables or explosives in the area which could cause a fire or explosion if they were ignited with an electrical spark.
- Whenever possible, try to reduce the voltage on all portable tools and equipment and use battery powered tools when you can – as they are safer.
Most of all, one of the most crucial safety tips is to make sure that all people who are carrying out electrical work are trained and competent to do the job. If they don’t have the right electrical qualifications, they shouldn’t be doing the work - for their own safety and the safety of others.
Electrical Safety Training
It is very important for employers and employees who work around electricity to have the correct health and safety training for their profession. This will help them to identify risks and to make sure that the correct procedures are in place in order to manage these risks. There are many high quality health and safety courses that are offered at training centres around the country, which can help to make sure that all workers and supervisors are properly qualified.