Risks From Electricity?
Harm can be caused to any person when they are exposed to ‘live parts’ that are either touched directly or indirectly by means of some conducting object or material. Voltages over 50 volts AC or 120 volts DC are considered hazardous.
Electricity can kill. Each year about 1000 accidents at work involving electric shocks or burns are reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Around 30 of these are fatal, most of them arising from contact with overhead or underground power cables.
Shocks from faulty equipment can cause severe and permanent injury and can also lead to indirect injuries, due to falls from ladders, scaffolds, or other work platforms.
Faulty electrical appliances can also lead to fires. As well as causing injuries and loss of life, fires cause damage to plant, equipment, and property.
Who is most at risk from electricity?
Anyone can be exposed to the dangers of electricity while at work and everyone should be made aware of the dangers.
Those most at risk include maintenance staff, those working with electrical plant, equipment and machinery, and people working in harsh environments such as construction sites.
Most electrical accidents occur because of individuals:
- are working on or near equipment which is thought to be dead but which is, in fact, life
- are working on or near equipment which is known to be live, but where those involved are without adequate training or appropriate equipment, or they have not taken adequate precautions
- misuse equipment or use electrical equipment which they know to be faulty.
Legal duties and obligations around electricity
As well as a moral duty on employers to protect employees and members of the public, General Health and Safety Legislation cover all employers and workplaces.
In addition, specific duties and obligations are laid out in the following regulations:
The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 These regulations apply to all aspects of the use of electricity within the workplace from electrical supplies to the use of electrical equipment. They place a duty on employers, employees and the self-employed to:
- have the electrical systems constructed in a way that prevents danger
- maintain their electrical systems as necessary to prevent danger
- have work on, use of, or closure of, electrical systems carried out in a way that prevents danger.
- electrical equipment used in hazardous environments (e.g. extremes of weather, temperature, corrosive conditions) must be constructed or protected to prevent it becoming dangerous
- only those with adequate knowledge or experience, or who are under adequate supervision should work with, or on, electrical equipment that could cause danger or injury.
The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR) These regulations cover the reporting of certain incidents, including those involving electricity.
You must notify the enforcing authority immediately by telephone using the Incident Reporting Line 0845 300 9923 or via the Health and Safety Executive’s Incident Report page (external site)
The following incidents must be reported:
- injury to staff due to an electric shock or electrical burn leading to unconsciousness or requiring resuscitation; or admittance to hospital
- electrical short circuit or overload causing fire or explosion
- plant or equipment coming into contact with overhead power lines.
To view the full text of the above legislation online, please follow the links under Legislation.