How To Prevent Electric Shocks In The Workplace

Whatever the industry, almost every single workplace relies on electricity as part of their daily operation. From IT equipment in an office environment to heavy power tools and machinery on building sites, the risk of electrocution should be regularly assessed and any hazards should be acted on immediately.

As a business, you are responsible for the safety of your employees and those visiting your site. Being legally obliged to protect your workforce from harm, having a thorough understanding of the necessary health and safety requirements will ensure the steps are being taken to not only avoid injury, but to stay out of legal trouble.

Every employer has a duty of care and is required to comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 as well as the The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 which adds additional legislation specifically regarding shock hazards. Covering construction, maintenance and use of electrical systems to prevent danger, any failure to comply can lead to legal action so knowing how to prevent electric shocks in the workplace is vital. In the event of an accident or injury involving electricity, however minor they may seem, it should be reported by the employer in line with The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995.

H2: The Most Common Shock Hazards

Electrical injuries are a serious matter which create a particularly dangerous threat where higher voltage equipment is present, even posing the risk of death. When voltage goes through the body, the electrical signals between the brain and the muscles are affected which can lead to muscle spasms, burns on the skin, difficulty breathing and a change in heartbeat. The level of shock hazard can vary from minor to fatal depending on varying factors such as voltage, part of the body involved, and the time spent in contact.

Although threats vary from business to business, not knowing how to prevent electric shocks in the workplace can increase the likelihood of the most frequent types of electrical injuries which include:

  • Exposure to live electrical current which can result in shock, burns, or even death.
  • Unidentified electrical faults such as outdated sockets and overfilled extension leads that can lead to fires.
  • Explosions from flammable materials caused by exposure to an electricity source.

H2: Understanding How To Prevent Electrocution In The Workplace

H3: Keep live electrics out of reach

Only qualified personnel should be able to come in close contact with any electrical currents that have a voltage higher than fifty and everybody else must be kept away at all times. Live electrical currents pose a serious safety threat so physical barriers should be installed to protect employees and visitors, ensuring they are at a safe distance and taking precautions. Any cabinet doors should be shut when not in use and panelling should be free of any holes or damage which could lead to unexpected contact with live wires. In areas where a hazard can not be secured in a confined cabinet, top tips include using insulating materials to protect those who are required to work in the area.

H3: Ensure thorough training is carried out

Before using any electrical equipment, workplace safety training should have been undergone and any electrical safety supplies provided. This is mandatory before being able to begin work and all new starters should be briefed in a timely manner. Standard training topics include handling cords, dealing with trailing cables, overfilling outlets, and not using any appliances with visible damaged cables. By having everybody on the same page when carrying out their roles, the risk of hazards is significantly minimised and employees should all know who to report to in the event of an issue which goes against their safety training.

H3: Safely store hazardous cleaning equipment

One of the most common shock hazards in a workplace comes from a lack of knowledge surrounding conductive tools and cleaning materials. Many common cleaning materials are electrically conductive and can cause serious harm if they come into contact with live electrical appliances. When working in an area where shock hazards are present, solvent and water based cleaning products should be avoided unless the electricity is switched off completely. When not in use, they should be safely stored out of reach so they are not accidentally split or used around live electrics.

H3: Look out for overhead cables

When working overhead or using vehicles such as forklift trucks and cranes, it is important that the workforce is aware of any power lines above them. Many businesses choose to install any live electrical equipment at a higher level so the risk of coming into contact is minimised and only authorised personnel are able to work on them. Although this tends to be a great solution, it is important to account for any business operations which may require close contact to these as live electrical lines should never get within ten feet of those without relevant training.

H3: Stay up to date on electrical equipment certifications

From office computers to bathroom hand dryers, all electrical appliances on business premises should be fully certified by a nationally recognised laboratory. These checks tend to be carried out every five years and carry approved markings, labelling the appliance as safe and AS/NZS 3760 compliant. By working alongside an electrical professional to ensure equipment is safe to use and free of any immediate risks, businesses are doing what they can to protect their workforce through the equipment they are required to use on an ongoing basis. If any faults arise during the certification period, it should still be checked by a professional and actioned in a timely manner.

H3: Never overload your outlets

Especially in areas where plug sockets are hard to come by, it is tempting to turn towards extension leads to be able to use more electrical appliances. This is a key example of not knowing how to prevent electrocution in the workplace but overloading a power board can cause it to overheat and significantly raise the risk of an electrical fire as the circuit carries too much electricity. All plug sockets should be regularly checked to ensure that nobody is using them incorrectly; risking their own safety as well as that of others.

H3: Introduce safety signage

Communication is key so ensuring that all employees and guests to a site have information on any potential shock hazards is paramount. Any areas with live wires or heavy duty equipment should be well signposted to either prevent unauthorised access or make any dangers known. As well as permanent safety signage, temporary danger signage should be used in the event of things like a faulty socket, any building work that is going on, or other scenarios which could leave passers by vulnerable.

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