Electrical safety precautions - Electricity - Healthy Working Lives

Electricity

Common hazards, your legal duties and precautions you can take when working with electricity

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Electrical safety at work should be a concern to all organisations.

Use the links below to find information on hazards when working with electricity, how to assess these, precautions you can take and your legal obligations.

  1. Common electrical related hazards
  2. Electrical safety precautions
  3. Electrical safety legislation

2. Electrical safety precautions

Electrical safety checks and tests ​

Regular informal 'before use' visual checks and more formal visual inspections improve safety. ​Remember to include cables and transformers in any checks.​

Legislation requires you as an employer to decide on the frequency of testing and inspection based on your risk assessment​. You should also take into consideration the following about your equipment

  • where it's used
  • how often it's used​
  • the type of equipment
  • if it's portable or transportable
  • if it's used in a harsh environment.

Visual checks are often backed up by portable appliance testing (PAT). Whilst not a legal requirement, PAT testing as part of your safety system can demonstrate that your electrical equipment is in good working order and safe to use.

To help you record safety checks, we have created an online record of equipment inspection form.​

Use our equipment inspection record form​​

Preventing electrical risks

You may be able to remove some electrical risks by using tools powered by air, hand or hydraulics. However, be aware that these tools could introduce other hazards for the user.

Lower voltages can reduce or remove the risks of shocks and burns. ​Battery powered tools are safest. Use lower voltage portable tools at 110 volts. Temporary lighting can also run at lower voltages.

You should use a residual current device or lower voltage tools in harsh environments.

Basic safety precautions

There are simple ways to reduce risks.

  • Check all equipment i​s in good working order.
  • If you find or suspect a fault, stop using the equipment, disconnect from the electrical supply and label 'do not use'.

​You should also

  • avoid overloading sockets by providing enough socket-outlets
  • where possible switch off all appliances at the mains at the end of the working day
  • switch off and unplug equipment before you clean it or make adjustments
  • provide an accessible and clearly identified switch near fixed machinery to cut off power in an emergency.

More information on working safely using electrically powered equipment​ can be found on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) site.

​Cable maintenance

When you fix or maintain cables

  • never repair cuts with insulating tape
  • use proper connectors to join lengths of cable
  • replace damaged sections of cable completely
  • don't use connector blocks covered in insulating tape or 'splice' wires by twisting them together
  • ensure cable ends always have their outer sheaths firmly clamped to stop wires coming loose from plugs or inside equipment.

​Planning electrical work

When planning electrical work you should add to your risk assessment by providing more detail to those involved in the form of a method statement. This includes how the job is to be carried out and how the risks are managed.

You should also

  • ensure that the person carrying out the work is competent to do so
  • use lock off systems and correct signage to inform staff and prevent access
  • use plans and cable-avoiding tools to locate cables
  • not touch supplies and assume they are live unless a competent person or utility company confirms they are not live
  • have overhead lines switched off if possible or maintain safe distances from the lines for plant and equipment.

More detailed guidance on avoidance of danger from underground​ and overhead electric lines is available from the HSE site.

You could consider the application of a permit to work​ system, especially for more complex jobs such as work on meters, circuits and plant installations.

​Other safety precautions​

You should also

  • ensure controlled entry to electrical plant or switch gear
  • choose electrical equipment that is intended for the specific working environment
  • seek specialist advice when choosing electrical equipment that is being used in flammable or explosive atmospheres.

Do not work on exposed live parts of equipment and systems unless it is unavoidable. Take suitable precautions to prevent injury, both to the workers and to anyone else in the area.

The HSE has further information on electrical safety at work. They also provide a range of specific guidance relating to sectors of work.

Visit the HSE site for further guidance on electrical safety at work

​​Residual current device

A residual current device (RCD) detects some, but not all, faults in the electrical system. It then quickly breaks the electrical supply.

The most effective place to have an RCD is built directly into the main electrical supply or socket. This means that the supply cables are permanently protected. An alternative is to use a plug that has a built in RCD or a plug-in RCD adaptor. Use the test button regularly to make sure the RCD is working properly.​