Electrical safety is of paramount importance in any workplace. In the 2021-2022 period, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reported a significant number of work-related accidents, with over 1,000 reported electric shocks and burns contributing to these alarming figures.
The magnitude of overall workplace injuries underscores the potential risks that electric shocks or burns could pose. Disturbingly, 30 of the reported electrical incidents led to a fatality during the same period.
Given these sobering statistics, it is crucial that everyone in the workplace is fully aware of the potential electrical hazards they may encounter. Understanding these risks is the first step to preventing them, leading to safer workplaces and saving lives.
The Importance of Electrical Safety at Work from an Employer’s Perspective
Employers have a sacred duty to keep their employees safe while they are at work. Not only is this a moral obligation that employers should adhere to, but it is also something that they are legally bound to do. Failure to keep employees safe can lead to significant legal trouble for the employer, and this can result in significant fines and other penalties for the employer. There are two major regulations in the United Kingdom that employers should know about regarding electric safety in the workplace:
Electricity at Work Regulations (1989)
This regulation puts certain duties on the employer, the employees, and even the self-employed to help prevent electrical accidents from taking place. The portion that must be considered by employers revolves around their duties to:
- Maintain electrical equipment.
- Carry out work on electrical equipment in a safe method.
- Have electrical systems constructed in a way that prevents danger.
In other words, employers are expected to assemble electrical systems safely and to maintain those systems safely for years to come as well.
Health and Safety at Work Act (1974)
An earlier piece of legislation also sought to govern the way that electrical equipment is treated on worksites. The fact that there have been repeated regulations laid out about this specific issue should clue you into how important it is. The key thing to know about this regulation is that it laid out some of the frameworks for what was expected of employers regarding electrical equipment safety. A few of the requirements of employers include:
- Ensure that staff is properly trained on how to deal with electrical equipment.
- Perform routine risk assessments.
- Put a competent individual over the health and safety of the company.
These are some of the basics that are expected of employers when they are setting up shop. They must follow these rules and regulations to remain compliant with the law.
What are the Common Electrical Hazards in the Workplace?
Knowing about the layers of regulations that govern electrical equipment within the workplace is important, but you should try to take in even more information than just that. For example, it is a good idea to know about some of the most common electrical hazards that could impact someone at work.
Faulty wiring is the leading cause of fires in workplaces. In the 2021-2022 period, faulty wiring was responsible for. Any fire can be dangerous, but wiring sparked by faulty wiring may be even more hazardous because it is easy to not notice it at all until it has begun to spread far and wide. Before you know it, that fire can spread throughout the entire workplace?
Faulty wiring stands as the leading cause of workplace fires, a problem that cannot be overlooked. In the 2021-2022 period, an alarming 38% of all work-related fires were traced back to faulty wiring. The danger of such fires lies in their ‘hidden’ beginnings.
They can ignite unnoticed, hidden behind walls or within electrical equipment, and by the time they are detected, they may have already spread extensively. A fire of this nature can swiftly engulf an entire workplace, escalating into a severe threat before you’re even aware of its existence.
Exposed Live Wires
The presence of exposed live wires in any workplace is also a significant safety hazard.
These wires, if not properly insulated and maintained, can dramatically increase the risk of fires and electrical shocks. When left unattended or in contact with open air, they pose a severe threat of sparking fires or causing harmful electrical discharges.
Immediate action is essential in such scenarios. Ensuring all live wires are correctly installed, insulated, and periodically checked can help prevent these potentially catastrophic incidents, reinforcing the safety of the workplace environment.
It is important to avoid overloading sockets, as this can cause them to overheat and potentially start a fire.
When you plug in too many appliances into a single socket, it can exceed the socket’s maximum current rating. This can cause the socket to overheat, potentially sparking a fire.
Another way to overload a socket is to plug an extension lead into another extension lead. This can also cause the socket to overheat, as the extension leads are not designed to handle the extra current.
To avoid overloading sockets, it is important to only plug in the number of appliances that the socket can safely handle so you don’t exceed its maximum current rating. You should also avoid plugging extension leads into other extension leads.
If you are unsure how many appliances you can safely plug into a socket, you can consult the manufacturer’s instructions or get in touch with our expert team of commercial electricians.
Badly Installed or Poorly Maintained Electrical Equipment
There is a reason why so much of the regulation surrounding electrical safety in the workplace revolves around the concept of properly installing that electrical equipment. This is because badly installed electrical equipment can lead to danger. Equipment that is improperly installed may fail to work at all, and it may also lead to additional situations where fires start.
The importance of properly installing electrical equipment in the workplace is evident in the amount of regulation that exists on the topic. This is because badly installed electrical equipment can pose a serious hazard. Improper installation can lead to equipment failure, which can in turn cause fires or other injuries.
Employers should ensure that all electrical equipment in their workplace is properly installed. We have detailed information you can read on commercial electrical installation to find out more.
“Properly installed electrical equipment is essential for workplace safety. If you are unsure about the safety of your electrical equipment, please contact us today.” – Jordan Griffin, Director Akehurst Electrical
Overhead Power Lines
Working within 10 feet of overhead power lines is extremely dangerous. Even if you do not make direct contact with the lines, you could be electrocuted by the electric field they create. This can cause serious injuries or even death.
It’s critical to maintain a safe distance from such power lines to prevent these hazardous encounters and ensure the safety of all employees.
Earthing is a critical safety measure for electrical equipment in the UK. It helps to protect people from electric shock by providing a safe path for electricity to flow in the event of a fault. Improper earthing is a common regulatory violation and can lead to serious injuries or death.
Electrical Safety First is a UK charity that works to improve electrical safety. They have a report on Electrical Safety in the UK 2022 that states that 1 in 5 businesses have not had their electrical installations inspected in the past five years. This means that there is a high risk of earthing problems in many businesses.
Many pieces of electrical equipment must be insulated to prevent the danger of sparks, overheating, and other dangers. If the insulation that protects that electrical equipment can become damaged over time, and that may lead to unforeseen dangers in the workplace.
Electrical Exposure to Water
Water and electricity do not mix. If there is standing water anywhere within a business, it is necessary to pay attention to where that water is and to ensure that all electrical equipment is kept far away from any pools of water.
Prevention and Control Measures for Electrical Hazards
Clearly, you can see that there are a significant number of electrical hazards that may exist within a workplace. Preventing these incidents from exposing employees to real risks to their health and well-being means hiring an inspector who can examine and inspect the entire workplace. This can only be done by a qualified commercial electrician.
When routine electrical inspections are performed by Akehurst, you can expect the following:
- We will visit your property to test and identify any potential areas of risk, including areas requiring RCD protection.
- We will recommend any issues that need immediate or urgent action.
- Following the assessment, you will receive a formal document confirming that your electrical systems are in good, safe working condition, or if there are any repairs to be made.
Our team have the skills, training and experience necessary to perform your inspections.
Electrical Hazard Assessment Checklist
To be extra certain that you are safe and within compliance with the law, it is best to go down a checklist and ensure that everyone is on the same page. This checklist should include the following points:
- Make All Employees Aware of Electrical Safety Concerns: Everyone on the team should understand what kind of electrical safety concerns exist in the workplace and how they can take actions to reduce the risks of those pieces of equipment causing them or anyone else any problems.
- Provide Full Safety Training: Every employee should have comprehensive electrical safety training to best prepare themselves to keep everyone safe while on the job.
- Ensure Enough Sockets are Available: You don’t want to run the risk of not having enough sockets available to employees. Ensure that enough sockets are provided so that none of them are overloaded.
- Turn off Appliances When Not in Use: Shut down electrical appliances when they are no longer in use for the day. This will reduce the risk of something overheating or otherwise causing issues.
Every piece of this checklist should be completed to ensure full electrical equipment safety.
Reporting Electrical Incidents and Near Misses
A culture of safety includes transparency and accountability. This means reporting all electrical incidents and near misses promptly. Not only does this compliance with regulatory requirements, but it also provides valuable information that can prevent similar incidents in the future.
An effective reporting system encourages employees to come forward with information about incidents without fear of repercussions. The data collected from these reports should be analysed and used to inform improvements to the existing safety measures.
Here at Akehurst Electrical, we prioritize the safety of our clients. Our team is well-versed in the requirements of an effective emergency response plan and can provide guidance in its development and implementation. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for assistance in ensuring your workplace is as safe as possible.
Emergency Response and First Aid for Electrical Hazards
While preventing electrical hazards should always be our first priority, it’s also crucial to have an emergency response plan in place. This is to ensure that in the unfortunate event of an accident, the response is swift and effective, mitigating any potential harm. Some recommendations include:
- Designated emergency responders: Employees who have been trained in electrical safety should be designated as emergency responders. These employees should know how to identify and respond to electrical hazards.
- Emergency procedures: The emergency action plan should include clear procedures for responding to electrical emergencies. These procedures should include steps for:
- Evacuating the area
- Treating electrical injuries
- Calling for help
First Aid for Electrical Injuries
If someone is injured by electricity, it is important to provide first aid immediately. The following steps should be taken:
- Check for breathing and a pulse. If the person is not breathing or has no pulse, start CPR.
- Call for help. If you are alone, call 999. If there are other people around, have someone else call for help while you provide first aid.
- Move the person to a safe location. If the person is still in contact with the electrical source, disconnect the power or move the person away from the source.
- Check for burns. If the person has burns, cool the area with cool water for 10-15 minutes. Do not apply ice or ointment.
- Seek medical attention. Even if the person seems to be okay, it is important to seek medical attention after an electrical injury.
Reporting Electrical Incidents and Near Misses
It is important to report all electrical incidents and near misses. This includes incidents that did not result in injury. Reporting these incidents helps to identify and correct electrical hazards before someone is injured.
To report an electrical incident or near miss, you can contact your employer, a qualified commercial electrician, or the local electrical safety authority.
By following these steps, you can help to ensure that everyone in your workplace is safe from electrical hazards.
Partner with a Trusted Safety Provider
Here at Akehurst Electrical, we have seen it all. We know about the very real electrical equipment risks that any company may face at any given time. This is why we work so hard to provide our clients with the best advice possible.
It’s important to note that neglecting electrical safety in the workplace isn’t just a risk to the health and safety of employees; it can also lead to substantial legal repercussions. In the UK fines apply not just to incidents, but also to situations that put employees at risk.
Furthermore, imprisonment has become more likely for directors, managers, and employees who fail to properly comply with the regulations.
If you’re unsure about your compliance with electrical safety regulations, or if you’re looking for an expert team to help safeguard your workplace, don’t hesitate to please contact us today.