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Electricity in the Workplace

21 July 2023

Most people use some form of electricity in the workplace daily. It is this familiarity that leads to carelessness with electricity and a disregard for the risks associated with it. Common issues are overloading electricity outlets, maintaining electrical equipment while it is still connected to the power supply, using plugs fitted with the wrong fuse and using equipment that does not have a fused plug fitted.


The Main Hazards with Electricity

Electricity can affect the worker in a number of ways:

  • Burns – electricity invariably burns (both entry and exit burns) and serious injuries can take a long time to heal.
  • Flash – electrical flashes are extremely bright and can burn or damage the eyes.
  • Shocks – electricity passing through the body can affect the heart. The consequences can be fatal.
  • Fires – a significant percentage of fires in the workplace are caused by electrical faults.

The risk of injury from electricity is strongly linked to where and how it is used.  In addition, there is greater risk in wet and/or damp conditions.

Once the human body comes into contact with the electricity, it can be impossible to let go of the source of electricity. If the person who is in touch with electricity gets touched by another person, the electricity will flow through the other person as well. The human body is a good conductor of electricity.

Every electric shock has the potential to kill!


Example of an Avoidable Accident

This incident was reported in the UK by the Health and Safety Executive.

Refrigerated display cabinet in a café

A 19-year-old man was electrocuted and killed when he touched a refrigerated display cabinet in a café. Investigation showed that the 13A plug had been incorrectly refitted to the cabinet’s main lead.

This meant the metalwork of the cabinet, which should have been safe to touch, was dangerously live at mains voltage. The man’s sister received two shocks from the cabinet before realising what had happened to her brother.

How to avoid similar accidents

You must ensure that your electrical installation and equipment is safe. Don’t cut corners – electrical installations must be installed by someone who has the necessary training, skills and experience to carry out the work safely.


Using Electrical Equipment Safely

To ensure safe use of electrical equipment:

  • ALWAYS – Check the equipment before use.
  • ALWAYS – Switch it off before unplugging the machine.
  • ALWAYS – Report all faults immediately and remove the equipment from use so no-one else can use it and get injured.
  • ALWAYS – Turn off the power when servicing electrical equipment.
  • NEVER – Handle the plug with wet hands.
  • NEVER – Use electrical equipment in wet conditions.
  • NEVER – Use electrical equipment unless you have been trained in its use.
  • NEVER – Overload electrical sockets.
  • NEVER – Overload extension leads (don’t plug in a combination of appliances that will exceed the maximum current rating for the lead).
  • NEVER – Attempt repairs unless qualified to do so.


Electrical Equipment Checks

Electrical cables, flexes, tools and equipment should be regularly checked and faults reported. Portable appliances should be checked periodically by a competent person.

A high percentage of faults with electrical equipment can be found by just looking at it. Everyone can play a role in improving safety by making quick visual checks of the equipment they use.

When carrying out preventive maintenance things to look for are:

  • Damage to cables, e.g. cuts and abrasions to the cable covering.
  • Damage to plugs, e.g. cracked casing or broken pins.
  • Loose cables, e.g. the outer covering of the cable not being gripped properly by the plug.
  • Signs of overheating, e.g. burn marks, staining or melted plastic.
  • Bare wires (none should be visible).
  • Coiled extension cables (make sure coiled extension cables are fully extended when in use).

If any of these faults, or any other unusual state of the equipment can be noticed, a qualified person should undertake any necessary repairs. No electrical equipment should be used if there is any sign of damage.

Additional information can be found on Health and Safety Authority website and their Electricity pages.


Dealing with Electrical Shock

A shock occurs when an electrical current passes through the body. This can interfere with the body’s own electrical impulses and may cause the heart or breathing to stop. Burns may be seen where the current enters and exits the body. There may also be deep internal damage which cannot be seen along the path of the current.

In the event of someone suffering an electric shock:

  • Seek help and do not put yourself at risk.
  • Make sure the contact with the electricity is broken before you touch the casualty. Turn off the power at the mains or unplug the appliance if possible. Do not touch anything that is metal or wet.
  • For high voltage supplies (such as overhead power lines) do not allow anyone within 18 meters of the casualty.
  • Once the power is disconnected safely, someone with first aid knowledge can give first aid. This may involve giving CPR or treating any burns or injuries.
  • Take the casualty to hospital for a check up (even if they have apparently recovered). Call 999/112 for emergency help if the casualty has been unconscious or has electrical burns.


Online Health and Safety Training

Proactive Health and Safety training is critical to ensure a safe workplace. An effective training program can reduce the number of worker injuries and deaths. It can also reduce instances of property damage, legal liability, illnesses, and missed time from work.

Health and Safety training helps establish a culture in which employees themselves help promote proper safety procedures while on the job. It is important that new employees be properly trained and embrace the importance of workplace safety. The role of training in developing and maintaining effective hazard control activities is a proven and successful method of intervention.

This is why we have established Myelearsafety school. We pride ourselves in how we guide, support and mentor our students. They receive support throughout their learning experience and into their working lives. Our staff have extensive training experience and also have many years industry experience. We understand the challenges that exist within Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety. Our priority is to ensure that all learners are fully prepared to differentiate themselves in the workplace after completing our Health and Safety courses.

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Health and Safety courses.

To find out more, please check our Courses page.

Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email