Workplaces tend to have lots more electrical equipment as compared to residential premises. This is regardless of the size or type of the workplace. From basic lighting to highly complex internet servers in offices and heavy machinery in manufacturing plants, electricity is integral to running the workplace.
While all electrical equipment is designed with inbuilt protection, reckless use and ignoring basic safety precautions can override these safeguards and result in serious electrical accidents. When used wrongly, any component of the electrical setup can become a hazard, exposing workers to severe injuries from an electric shock at work such as burns or even death. They can also pose a fire hazard to the workplace itself, resulting in irreplaceable damage.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Electrical accidents in the workplace can be prevented by putting in place precautionary measures and following up with regular maintenance and constant vigilance.
Common Causes Of Electrical Accidents In The Workplace
These are the most common but not necessarily the only causes of electrical accidents in the workplace:
- Improperly installed electrical equipment.
- Faulty wiring.
- Incorrect use of replacement fuses.
- Not taking care to isolate electrical installations and equipment correctly.
- Incorrect design of electrical wiring and installations.
- Poorly constructed or incorrectly set up electrical installations.
- Poor quality extension cables and flexible leads.
- Not repairing or replacing faulty or damaged electrical systems, wiring, or equipment.
- Continuing to use cables that are frayed, loose, or have exposed wires.
- Overloaded outlets or extension cords.
- Overheating equipment.
- Using equipment that is not properly earthed.
- Using equipment that is thought to be dead but is actually live.
- Inadequate information and instruction provided to workers on potential electrical risks.
- Overlooking electrical equipment that’s giving off a strange odour when in use.
- Misuse of electrical appliances.
- Not carrying out regular inspection and maintenance of the electrical installation and electrical equipment.
It may sound like a lot of risk factors but the fact is each and every component associated with electricity poses some degree of risk by itself. Any and all of the above factors can cause an electrical accident leading to devastating injuries.
Types Of Accidents Resulting From Electrical Accidents
Electric shocks are the first thing that comes to mind when anyone thinks about electrical injuries. While they are definitely the most common type of electrical accident, they aren’t the only type of injury associated with electricity. Other injuries can include:
- Electrical burns.
- Thermal burns.
- Loss of muscle control.
How Electrical Accidents Can Be Prevented
The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 is the main legislation related to electrical safety in workplaces around the U.K. These regulations highlight the different measures workplaces are required to put in place to achieve electrical safety compliance. It includes exhaustive guidelines on Electrical Safety At Work, Maintaining Electrical Equipment Safely, Safe Working Practices, and more.
The clauses within the Electricity at Work Regulations cover the responsibilities of every individual on the premises, from employers to workers and visitors. Complying with these guidelines can significantly reduce or even prevent the incidence of electrical accidents in the workplace.
Electricity can severely injure or kill people and cause major damage to property. However, there are simple precautions you can take if you’re working with or near electricity and electrical equipment that can significantly reduce the risk of injury to you and others around you. This section provides a summary of those precautions.
- All electrical systems and equipment must be installed by a qualified and licensed electrician under proper supervision. Anyone with insufficient knowledge, skills or experience should never be entrusted to work with electricity. Even the smallest mistake such as incorrectly wiring a plug can be dangerous, leading to fires and fatal accidents.
- The electrical systems and equipment installed must have the strength and capability required in that particular workplace. This strength and capacity must not be exceeded. If necessary, additional heavy-duty systems must be installed.
- All electrical systems and equipment must be regularly inspected and maintained by a professional and licensed electrician. Any faulty components within the electrical system must be replaced immediately.
- Only an experienced and competent professional should be allowed to work on any electrical work, however minor.
- Earthing is a mandatory precautionary measure that must be provided by the servicing electrician.
- Electrical cords must never be run through high-traffic areas, across doorways or under carpets.
- All electrical cords must be inspected at least once a month to ensure they are not frayed, cracked or otherwise damaged.
- Electrical equipment that is likely to be used in hazardous or adverse environments such as wet conditions or explosive surroundings must be adequately and appropriately protected to minimise contact.
- There must be a way to isolate or cut off electrical systems and appliances in dangerous or volatile situations.
- All cables must be properly secured. Trailing cables are a common trip and fall hazard in the workplace.
- Care must be taken to ensure that there is sufficient space, lighting and access around electrical equipment when working on it.
- All workers must receive training in the proper use of electrical equipment, especially when handling heavy-duty or high voltage electrical equipment.
- All electrical appliances and equipment must be switched off and unplugged before cleaning or adjusting.
- Always check the electrical wiring layout before drilling into any walls. Electrical cables and wires may be laid out within walls and ceilings. Drilling without checking the electrical wiring layout is dangerous and can be fatal.
- Outlets should not be overloaded with too many appliances. As a general rule, only one high-wattage appliance should be plugged into any outlet at any given time.
- All electrical equipment should be unplugged when not in use to minimise the risk of electric shock and fire. It saves energy too.
Safety in the workplace is the responsibility of both employers and workers. Employers are expected to hire qualified and competent electricians for any electrical-related work, from installation to inspection and repair. On their part, workers are expected to adhere to all safety precautions and report any electricity-related issues to their supervisor for immediate resolution. The most effective way to avoid electrical hazards and injuries is for employers and workers to be vigilant and proactive at all times.