Thursday, July 5, 2012

Electrical Hazards

When reviewing the possible Electrical Hazards in your business premises, bear in mind that over 20% of reportable accidents involve portable equipment and most of these accidents involve electric shock. Injuries from electric shock are surprisingly commonplace and in the majority of cases, easily preventable. The three main dangers with electricity are electrocution (or electric shock), burns and the risk of fire or explosion.

Electric Shock

The human body conducts electricity easily and the amount of current flowing through the body depends on their weight, skin conditions, point of contact and the immediate environment. If a person is standing on a wet floor, the electricity will pass to earth quicker and give a more serious injury. If someone is standing on a rubber mat, less current will pass through and the person will not be as affected.


Human tissue will burn when electricity enters the body and possibly extend beneath the skin's surface.

Fire or Explosion

Fire can occur when an electrical circuit is interrupted, for example when moisture, faults or wires breaking causing arching. This arcing is a source of ignition that can spark and set fire to any materials nearby. Explosions can happen when arcing takes place near to large quantities of flammable liquids or gases.

Obviously the higher the current (or amps) will mean a greater risk but even 240 volts from household appliances can be fatal.

Most injuries from electricity are caused by -

1) Poorly maintained electrical equipment
2) Working under or near overhead power cables
3) Contact with power cables during building work
4) Working near electrical supplies
5) Using electrical appliances in an explosive atmosphere eg paint spray booths.

As a Business owner you are responsible for your employee's safety. There are two main ways to reduce the likelihood of someone getting an electric shock -

1) Prevent them from getting in contact with electricity, and
2) Use a safety device to cut off a power supply.

Preventive measures should always be used to reduce the possibility of someone coming into direct contact with live wires. All wire casings should be fully insulated and never touched until the circuit has been isolated. Regular visual inspections are vital to ensuring electrical items remain safe to use. Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) can also be used to ensure appliances are safe to use.

Safety devices, eg Residual Current Devices (RCDs) will stop the flow of electricity if a fault develops and should be plugged into the main outlet for effective protection.

Your electrical risk assessment will identify the possible Electrical Hazards in your business and then the responsibility rests with you to make every practicable effort to protect your workforce.

Nigel J Welford is a qualified Health & Safety professional and believes in making health and safety as simple as possible whilst still being effective and meeting all the regulations. For his free report "The Secret To How Health & Safety Can Improve Your Business And Profits: 7 Everyday Pitfalls To Avoid" from

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