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.
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
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.
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.
There are simple ways to reduce risks.
You should also
More information on
working safely using electrically powered equipment can be found on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) site.
When you fix or maintain cables
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
More detailed guidance on avoidance of danger from
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.
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.
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.
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