Most people use some form of electrical equipment every day at work, so it’s important everyone is following safety practices.
However, it is this familiarity that leads to carelessness with electricity and a disregard for the risks. Electricity can be extremely dangerous.
Every year, around 1,000 accidents at work involve electrical shocks or burns. Of these, about 30 are fatal.
There are many common ways which people manage to seriously injure themselves. So check you’re not overloading electricity outlets and working on equipment still plugged in. Also, make certain that plugs have a correct fuse installed.
Ways Which Electricity Can Affect Workers
Electrical burns get caused by the heat which the electrical current generates as it flows through the tissues of the body.
You may be able to see a burn where the current entered and the point where it exited. There could also be deep, internal burns which might not be visible.
A shock passing through the body can kill instantly. This is because a shock can affect the heart’s electrical impulses. And even shocks which are not fatal can cause serious or permanent damage.
An electrical flash can happen when equipment is worn or not correctly maintained and insulated. The large energy release is more powerful than the sun, so can easily burn and damage eyesight. Unsurprisingly, these can also cause other injuries and start a fire.
Around 20% of accidental fires in the workplace are the result of electrical faults.
Reducing The Risks
Before using any equipment, it never hurts to just perform a quick check. If anyone finds a fault it needs reporting and removing so no-one else uses it or gets hurt.
When servicing equipment, ensure to unplug and turn it off. But don’t attempt repairs unless qualified to do so. Similarly, it’s best to avoid using specialised equipment at work unless you have received training in its use.
Ensure sockets are not overloaded, and that you know where the switch is and can easily reach it. If something goes wrong, turning it off quickly might just prevent a serious injury or damage.
Also, make sure the conditions are appropriate. Don’t use electrical equipment in the wet, and avoid touching any electrical equipment with wet hands.
And take care in where you use and place equipment. For example, portable heaters need placing, at least, one meter away from flammable materials. That’s because they can cause nearby items to heat and eventually combust.
Electrical Equipment Checks
Electrical cables, plugs, flexes, tool and equipment needs regular checking. Visual inspections are an effective method for improving safety.
You can find a high percentage of faults or damage by just looking at the equipment, taking into consideration where and how it’s used. Commons signs to look out for include:
- Damaged cables, such as cuts and abrasions,
- Damage to the plug, including cracked casing or broken pins,
- Non-standard parts or tape,
- Damage to the outer cover or loose parts and screws,
- Signs of overheating, like burn marks,
- Bare wires.
All plugs need to have the correct rating of fuse installed and all wires securely gripped into place.
However, all these checks should not replace annual Potable Appliance Testing (PAT) by a trained person. And nor does it substitute electrical installation testing every three to four years.
Dealing With An Electrical Emergency
Whatever the problem, you should not put yourself at any risk.
Electrical burns need treating in the same way you would treat a traditional burn, by cooling and protecting the area.
In the event of suffering an electrical shock, then seek help immediately. Don’t touch the casualty until you or someone else has turned the power off safely. Only then is it safe to give first aid such as CPR if needed.
The casualty will need a check-up at the hospital, even if they appear to be fine. Call for emergency help if they are unconscious or have received serious electrical burns.
When an electrical fire breaks out, please use extreme caution.
If possible, the power should get turned off before attempting to extinguish the flames. That is because it then allows you to fight it in a conventional manner.
However, if you cannot remove the electrical charge, then it is best to use a CO2 or dry powder fire extinguisher. Unlike water and foam, they will not conduct the electricity, and reduces the likelihood of electrocution.
Electricity is an essential part of our daily lives, but it’s easy to forget how dangerous it is. So ensure that everything gets done to limit the risks and you’re prepared in case an electrical emergency occurs.