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Electrical Safety

This British Safety guide provides some basic, introductory advice on some of the key precautions for working with, on or near electricity to reduce the risk of death and injury. It is based on HSE guidance.

Electrical health and safety risks, if not properly managed, can result in workers being killed or seriously injured. For example, the guide highlights that workers can suffer fatal and severe electric shocks and burns if they come into contact with live electrical parts and voltages. Also, faulty electrical equipment, appliances and installations can cause fires that may severely damage and even destroy property.

Under UK health and safety law, employers have a duty to assess the health and safety hazards and risks that electricity poses to their workers and others. This includes people who could be affected if the employer’s workers create an electrical hazard or risk, such as causing an electrical explosion by striking or cutting into live underground cables.

Employers must also do everything reasonably practicable to ensure that all electrical systems, installations and equipment are designed, built, operated and maintained to prevent people – such as workers – from being injured or put in danger. This includes ensuring that all work on or near electrical equipment and supplies – such as work near electrical wiring in a building, underground cables and overhead power lines – is carried out safely, as far as is reasonably practicable.

According to the guide:

  • 193 employees injured due to contact with electricity or an electrical discharge at work in Britain in 2019/20(p), according to employer RIDDOR report.

  • 24 workers (employees and self-employed people) killed due to contact with electricity or an electrical discharge at work in Britain in the five-year period 2016-2021(p (provisional)).

  • 137 incidents of plant or equipment coming into contact with overhead electric lines during work activities in Britain, reported to HSE under RIDDOR in 2019/20(p).

  • 50 volts applied between two parts of the human body causes a current to flow that can block the electrical signals between the brain and the muscles, warns the HSE.

Guidance is set out on the following topics:

  • assessing the risks

  • safe installations

  • portable electrical equipment

  • safety devices

  • maintaining portable equipment

  • working near electricity

  • work on equipment

  • working near wiring

  • underground cables.

The document is available here.

British Safety Council August 2021


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