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Electricity at Work: The importance of safe working practices

Electricity can kill or severely injure people and cause damage to property from the effects of fires and explosions. Every year accidents at work involving electric shock or burns are reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Electric shocks do not always cause lasting injury but in certain circumstances can result in death, known as electrocution. The sudden muscular contraction during the shock can result in injuries from, for example, falling. Electric current flowing through the body can cause deep burns.

Most electrical accidents occur because people are working on or near equipment that is:

  • thought to be dead but which is live;

  • known to be live but those involved do not have adequate training or appropriate equipment to prevent injury, or they have not taken adequate precautions.

Earlier in the year two companies were fined after a worker received serious electrical burns. In April 2017 a principal contractor incorrectly informed a subcontractor that electrical equipment being worked on had been isolated. Subsequently a crowbar came into contact with live exposed wires causing a flashover and fire. Regrettably the worker suffered serious burns and was immediately hospitalised.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the task being undertaken had not been properly planned and suitable control measures were not implemented to ensure isolation of the power supply. Had the companies followed the control measures outlined in their respective risk assessments, this incident would not have occurred.

Electricity at work: Safe working practices’ is a guidance document published by the HSE and covers the key elements to consider when devising safe working practices. It includes advice for managers and supervisors who control or influence the design, specification, selection, installation, commissioning, maintenance or operation of electrical equipment.

This incident serves to remind us never to assume that an electrical supply is disconnected. Always check with the Distribution Network Operator or a qualified electrician to obtain written proof of isolation before commencing work. Ensure that your, or any contractor, risk assessments and method statements are fit for purpose and will prevent anything like this occurring again.

For help in ensuring electrical hazards are properly assessed and managed in your business please contact us here.

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