Electrical Safety in the workplace: Not to be taken lightly

Electricity plays an important role in our everyday lives, however, the risks associated with the use of electricity are often unknown or overlooked. When electricity is not managed properly it can have very serious consequences to people’s health and wellbeing.

When a person comes into contact with live electricity, an electric current passes through the body that result in shock and burns to both internal and external tissues and can cause serious damage to internal organs.

The severity of electric shock is dependent on a range of factors, such as voltage, contact time, type of current and the path of the current. In every workplace there are countless electrical hazards, with each having their own varying degree of risks. Some workplaces and professions are exposed to severe electrical hazards on a daily basis, while other workplaces are exposed to much smaller electrical risks.

Regardless of the workplace, electrical safety should always be treated with additional care, due to the seriousness of the consequences.

Those who work directly with electricity or on live electrical equipment innately carry the most risk. These can include engineers, electricians and overhead line workers, who often are required to install and repair, conduct testing and/or complete inspections and maintenance on electrical equipment.

Control Measures

There are countless safeguards used in workplaces to mitigate electrical risks and allow workers to safely complete tasks. Examples of this include:

· No Live Work policy

· Testing for Dead

· Inspecting electrical equipment condition prior to use

· Conducting work within safe zone of power lines

· Ensure workers have relevant training and licenses

· Grounding electrical equipment

· Install RCDs

· Ensuring power boards are not overcrowded

· Wearing correct PPE

· Using lead stands

· Insulating tools and equipment

Testing and Tagging

Another safeguard that is used to protect against hazards is testing and tagging of electrical equipment. This requires a competent person/electrician to inspect electrical equipment, to ensure that it is in good working condition.

The Australian standard ‘Inspection and testing of electrical equipment’ requires electrical equipment to be tested and tagged at specific intervals. The standard takes into account the type of workplace and the conditions that the workplace is faced with when assigning the testing frequencies (see below).

As you can see, different workplaces require different testing frequencies for RCDs and electrical equipment. Warehouses require more frequent testing when compared to an office based or residential environment, while constructions sites and hire equipment require testing and tagging every 3 months.

Each workplace faces different electrical hazards, requiring different levels of consideration and control measures. While the approach may change from workplace to workplace, it is important that the outcome is the same. A safe workplace for all.

If you would like further guidance in managing electrical safety in your workplace check out resources from SafeWork NSW and Safe Work Australia.

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