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Written by
on 17 July 2014


Electricity at work – SAFETY!

When something’s falling or a vehicle’s backing up, you see it coming and have a chance to get out of the way.  But not with electricity – the hidden danger of all work sites. Any contact with a voltage of over 50 volts AC or 120 volts DC is a danger to our bodies. The injuries are instant, from the shock, which can interrupt breathing or proper heart functioning, and cause muscle spasms.  With electrical and thermal burns to boot.

Loss of Bodily Control

And the unfortunate person getting zapped can lose control of their muscles, which is very dangerous on a work site as you could fall off scaffolding or into moving machinery. Electrical shocks are quite high risk; you don’t even need to touch a high voltage cable to get a shock.  And chances of injury go up when there’s lots of metalwork or the workplace is damp. Here are 7 steps to make sure you never experience them;

1. Risk Assess the Area

Of course, as with any worksite preparation do a full workplace risk assessment first and make sure all electrical threats are included. Here is a detailed guide to a risk assessment.

2. Learn Your Wires!

Understand how to recognize electrical wires, and make sure your workers do too. Include all electrical wiring, overhead power cables, and cables buried underground.

3. Check for Warning Signs of Danger

electricity signOnce you’ve located all the wires on site, check for any electrical warning signs – by this I mean actual signs, like this one:

They might be placed in awkward positions, above or below you, so look all around.  And sometimes these signs are missing, so stay vigilant all the same.

4. Use a Cable-Locator and Mark Them Out

Before any digging or disturbing earth, or even cutting into surfaces, you can find all hidden cables with use of a cable locator tool. And make sure you clearly and permanently mark all cables found.

5. Stay Clear Where Possible

Here’s the number one tip for electrical safety – if you can, work away from electrical wiring.  Pretty simple really. But if you have to work anywhere near electrical wiring then make sure you;

6. Turn Off the Power Supply

And do so in a way that you’re sure it can’t be turned back on without you agreeing to it! If the electricity cannot be turned off from reason, make sure to consult someone qualified on how to proceed in that rare case.   That is someone who ‘s successfully completed an assessed training course run by an accredited training organisation. We’d be happy to give you advice in any such situation.

7. Mark Out Safe & Danger Areas

If there are any areas still with live electrical circuits, mark them out very clearly so all workers are properly warned. If you follow these steps properly you and your workers should be fine and dandy.  Most injuries come from taking electricity too lightly. Have any questions about electricity on your worksite? We’re always happy to talk!

About the author

David Cant is a Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME’s favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick. You can find him across social media on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.