By Kyle Mitchell
Electrical safety in the workplace, just like anywhere else, is of paramount importance. As an owner of any kind of business where it is required for employees/members of the public to interact with electrical equipment, it’s extremely important that the safety of those people is a high priority, and it is also important that those people at work are aware of the potential dangers of electricity.
The following table outlines just how much of an effect electrical current can have on the human body:
|Physiological effect||50Hz AC|
|Generally not perceptible||0.5mA|
|Threshold of perception, tingling sensation||1mA|
|Maximum “let go” current||5mA|
|Painful, can’t let go||10-20mA|
|Severe pain, muscular contraction, difficulty breathing||30mA|
|Possible Ventricular Fibrillation after 3 s, death possible||0.1A|
|Skeletal muscle damage – death likely||1.5A|
As can be seen, electricity isn’t to be trifled with. It’s a very real danger, and it’s important to respect electricity, and find ways to prevent electrical accidents in the workplace. Here are some common errors in the workplace that can be avoided, simply by following regulations and being vigilant.
Appliances and Faulty Wiring
Appliances are extremely common in the workplace. From computers to power tools, it’s likely that practically everyone within the organisation at some point will have to use electrical appliances.
When using these, it’s important that the user always makes sure that wiring supplying electricity to the appliance is in good, safe working order. Educating your workers on the correct appearances of wires, and how to inspect them for obvious damage such as common faults, frays, exposed wiring or cracks within the casing will allow them to determine whether an appliance is safe for work or not.
If there’s something wrong with the wire, the appliance simply shouldn’t be used. It’s as simple as that.
Correctly Hiding Trailing Wires
Live wires supplying huge amounts of power should never be left exposed – they provide a huge danger to everyone, particularly because accidents can happen at absolutely any time.
By making sure wiring isn’t exposed, and is installed behind walls etc, it ensures that all of your employees are protected from the vast risks that exposed wiring can have to your employees.
Heating Equipment, Ovens Etc.
Although it may seem obvious, these forms of equipment pose a massive risk to the workplace. They’re a huge fire risk, and leaving such items unattended for long periods of time could be an extreme danger.
It is particularly important to assess any heaters that come from external sources (IE, your employees) as these could be faulty and directly cause a fire. Portable Appliance Testing should be carried out on these forms of equipment to ensure their operation is safe, and they should be constantly monitored and ALWAYS switched off.
No matter how minor it might seem, electrical repairs should NEVER be carried out by anyone except a qualified electrician. As can be seen by the table above, electricity can be an extremely dangerous form of energy, and without the correct knowledge and respect of how it works, it is very hazardous for anyone to tamper with who doesn’t know what they’re doing.
If something is faulty within your organisation and you need it repairing, always contact a fully certified electrician to carry out the work for you. It is your responsibility as an employee to ensure the safety of your workers, and tampering with electrical equipment puts them at a truly massive danger.
Don’t Overload Plug Sockets
Ever seen those pictures of people who’ve literally built what seems to be a LEGO-inspired collection of double adapters and then plugged them into a socket? They’re scary photos, particularly as the added weight and amount of power being supplied out to electrical items creates a huge danger.
It’s important to either use a designated surge protector with multiple plug sockets that can lie on the floor or to either plug in one or two items to a plug socket. This makes sure that the plug socket can’t overload, causing electrical burns, sparks, or even fire.
It’s one of the most common electrical safety pieces of advice given for a reason. Electricity and water simply don’t mix, and it is important that your company makes sure that any employees that have been exposed to water are not interacting with anything remotely electrical.
This extends from anything from plugs to appliances like PCs. It simply isn’t worth the risk to mix water and electricity, particularly as water acts as a source for current and can cause massive electrical shocks to the person with wet hands.
Electrical Overhead Power Lines
If anyone in your organisation works at a height, it is important to relay the dangers of electrical power lines. These overhead cables carry massive amounts of power, and are more likely to cause death than injury if touched.
Absolutely anybody working at a height must always make sure to check carefully for electrical cables.
Perform Regular Testing Procedures
Under several regulations it is the organisation’s responsibility to ensure the safety of all employees. In order to do this you should regularly make sure all equipment is inspected and passed as being completely safe by a certified individual, although regular inspection checks can be performed by employees who can flag up anything that might be amiss within the organisation’s equipment.
Similarly it is also important to regularly check the status of fixed wire installations throughout the building, as these can degrade over time and become increasingly more dangerous. If fixed wire points are dangerous, anything plugged into power points can then become a hazard, so make sure these are regularly checked over to make sure that safety within the organisation is as good as it can be.
Have Staff Complete an Electrical Awareness Course
Although they’ll decrease your productivity for a few hours, having staff take part in an electrical awareness course will help them to understand the potential dangers electricity can have, and how to avoid accidents in the workplace.
A lot of it may seem like common knowledge but there’s every chance an employee doesn’t know the procedures and regulations relating to electrical equipment. By educating them in this field you turn your workplace from a potential minefield of dangerous electrical outlets to an educated area full of people with a larger amount of respect for the power of electricity.
Similarly, developing an electrical safety regulations guidebook for your organisations for people to refer to can also be a great help in raising electrical safety.
The article was written by Kyle Mitchell, an employer of PASS ltd who specialise in testing equipment, electrical training and wire testing in the UK. You can visit their new website tester.co.uk for more, or visit the electrical testing section for equipment information.
Thank you, Kyle, for this very important information regarding safety while working around electricity. Most workplaces should have first aid kits available. Employees should be furnished the correct dielectric personal protective equipment, (i.e., hardhats, boots or rubber-soled shoes, and dielectric glasses.) pb