A Master Electrician’s Guide to Workplace Electrical Safety
Electrical faults are one of the most common worries, as well as one of the top workplace accidents. This is why turning to a master electrician for safety advice and making the job a safe place to work is essential.
Electrical safety must be treated as a priority in every workplace. Electricity is a powerful force that can be severely damaging and, in the worst cases, can be fatal.
Exposure to electricity is a serious occupational hazard that affects workers in all job categories. In addition to death, workers are exposed to electrical injuries from electric shock, electric arc and arc blast. Recent data have shown progress in reducing the frequency of incidents, but the statistics remain discouraging.
There are several different areas to consider with electrical hazards, each with different levels of risk that must be assessed accordingly.
Risks and dangers
It is important to note that a person does not need to work directly with electricity to be in contact with an electrical hazard. The most common electrical dangers include contact with exposed live parts, such as wires or other electrical equipment, causing electric shocks and burns, and electrical faults that could cause fires or explosions.
Electrocution can cause fatal injuries, depending on the severity of the impact sustained. Electric shocks can also cause related incidents, such as a person falling from scaffolding or being injured by operating machinery.
There are three general categories of electrical hazards: electric shock, arc flash, and arc blast. Electric shock occurs upon contact of a body part with any source of electricity, and it can be caused by direct or indirect contact. The electric current passes through the body, causing symptoms ranging from a mild tingling sensation to loss of muscular control, extreme pain, severe burns, respiratory arrest, ventricular fibrillation, or even death.
In the case of arc flash a foot-to-foot current path through the body. An example is what happens when a person is in the vicinity of a lightning strike or faulty underground wiring. If lightning strikes an object, a voltage difference exists between that object and earth, the voltage difference becomes less as the distance from the strike becomes greater.
When an arc blast happens, the air expands rapidly from the arc-fault causing high pressure waves and a sound blast. The material in the arc vaporizes, and the explosion causes flying parts. The high-pressure waves can throw workers across the room or off a ladder, causing physical injuries or death and the sound blast can cause temporary or permanent loss of hearing. Furthermore, the vaporized metal and plastic material can be breathed in and become embedded in the throat and lungs and the flying material can cause severe shrapnel wounds.
All electrical appliances must be checked for faults regularly, preferably by a specialist. This kind of service can be found at Pro Point Electrical, an electrical solutions company with years of experience in the market and coverage in Melbourne. Here are some recommendations when buying or using electrical appliances:
- Electrical appliances should always be used only for what they were designed for.
- Make sure that portable equipment has built-in safety switches.
- Never remove a fixed cover from an electrical appliance while it is connected to electricity.
- Buy approved brands, as this ensures that the items are OK for use in “safe” or “low risk” environments such as offices and commercial premises as long as they are subject to prior verification. When used in an “unsafe” or “high risk” environment, such as a construction site or factory, they should be subject to testing and visual checks.
- Any item used in a high-risk environment should be tested and labelled as safe before use.
- Any faulty or damaged electrical equipment should be switched off and unplugged.
- Report the problem and mark the item as unsafe so that colleagues do not attempt to use it.
- Do not use appliances that have been exposed to water or liquids. Switch off a wet appliance and unplug it and report the problem and mark it as unsafe.
Powerboards and extension cables
To manage the risks associated with power boards and extension cords, ensure that all power boards have overload protection and integrated on/off switches. Powerboards should also be kept well ventilated, clean, and above floor level where possible.
Extension cords should not be a permanent solution for power distribution and should always be securely routed to prevent them from becoming a tripping hazard. They should also be of high quality and robust, particularly when used outdoors, and should be in good condition and checked for faults before use.
Power sockets should be a key point of consideration, as they can easily become a high risk.
Sockets should never be overcrowded, and multiple sockets should be avoided wherever possible. It is essential to ensure that any device is unplugged rather than being pulled out of the socket by the cord.
Remember that when plugging and unplugging appliances, the switch should be turned off. Also, report any damaged or suspect plugs and label them as unsafe so that colleagues do not use them.
Sockets should be fully inserted into the base and should be tested regularly. They should also have safety switches and be labelled appropriately.
Lighting and heating
Halogen lamps are high risk and should be replaced where possible with safer alternatives. If fluorescent lighting is used and is enclosed, it should be ventilated to prevent overheating.
All exposed lighting cables should be routed as securely as possible. If damaged lighting wires are discovered, lights should be turned off and a qualified electrician should be called to fix the problem.
Offices should never be left empty when heating appliances are on.
Staff should be trained in the correct ways to use the electrical equipment involved in their work, as well as how to detect a fault and what to do in an emergency. Employees must be capable of recognizing where exposure to an electrical hazard exists and understand which standing guidance applies to the work task.
If a member of staff needs to use low-risk electrical equipment as part of their work, they should be properly trained on how to use the equipment and how to visually check it for faults before use. They should also know what to do if they find a fault.
Ensure that only qualified and licensed engineers or electricians carry out any electrical work. If a person will be working in a high-risk environment or using high-risk electrical equipment as part of their work, they should have extensive training so that they can work safely and recognize the potential hazards and should be fully informed about the risks involved in working with equipment in such an environment.