Of all the energy sources used in the workplace, electricity has the most significant potential to injure seriously or cause fatalities. The human body is an excellent conductor of electricity, and even non-fatal electric shocks can cause severe and permanent injury.
Electrical injuries include burns, electrocution and shock. Electric shock can cause muscle spasms, breathing failure, irregular heartbeat, severe burns, unconsciousness and can be fatal.
Electric shock can arise from exposed contacts, live electrical equipment, damaged insulation and wet conditions. An electrical fire can occur from loose connections, heating equipment, short circuits and the incorrect electrical equipment in hazardous environments.
The main electrical hazards in the workplace are:
- Contact with live parts of tools, equipment, extension cables and machinery.
- Electrical faults causing fires.
- Fires or explosions where electricity is the source of ignition.
Safe Work Practices
Safe work practices include ensuring that you follow these electrical safety requirements:
- Make sure that you know where the switch is for each fixed machine so you can cut off the power in an emergency.
- When using portable electric tools or equipment, make sure that you use socket outlets close by so that equipment can easily be disconnected in an emergency.
- Switch off and unplug tools, machinery and equipment before cleaning, making adjustments, servicing or changing attachments. Also, unplug tools when not in use.
- If there is an electrical problem, always try and disconnect the power by turning the main power switch off first.
- Make sure that all electric cords are in good condition and have been tested and tagged before using them. Check for any damage or exposed wires, fraying or cracked leads, and cracked or broken power sockets or plug tops. Replace any damaged leads correctly, or have them replaced by an electrician.
- To avoid electric shock, keep all electrical cords and electric power tools, equipment and machinery dry and clear of water or damp areas. Avoid using power tools in damp or wet locations. Preferably use cordless tools for damp or wet locations.
- Use residual current devices (RCD) when using electric power tools and when working outside with electrical equipment. When using mains power, use an isolating transformer.
- Keep all electrical power cords well clear of the working area.
- Always have dry hands when touching electrical appliances or sockets.
- Never operate electric power tools near flammable liquids or gases, or in an explosive atmosphere.
- Ensure that the air vents in electric power tools are kept free of dust, oil, wood and plastic or metal scraps so that the motor is well ventilated and will not overheat
- If you come across suspect or faulty equipment, do not use it and report to your supervisor.