SAFed Health and Safety Passport Scheme
Module 11 — Electricity in the Workplace
forms one of a series of modules on various health and safety subjects that
comprise the examinable material considered necessary for the award of the
SAFed Health and Safety Passport.
When you have
studied this module you should have acquired sufficient knowledge to be able
to complete the questions detailed at the end of the module.
Upon satisfactory completion of all modules, you will be eligible to
undertake the final assessment for the award of the SAFed Health and Safety
Health and Safety Passport is issued to Engineer Surveyors by the Health and
Safety Manager of their employing company upon satisfactory completion of the
Safety Passport final assessment.
The award of the SAFed Health and Safety Passport provides evidence that the holder of the Passport has the appropriate knowledge and awareness in health and safety matters considered necessary for an Engineer Surveyor to undertake the duties for which they are authorised by their employing company.
The passport is valid for a maximum of three years.
Having read this module you
should be aware of:
The legal requirement regarding
electricity at work within your own company and if applicable, the site at
which you are working at the time.
The potential dangers of electricity,
and how to avoid them.
The Health and Safety laws,
which cover this module, are:
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act
The Electricity at Work Regulations
The Management of Health and Safety at
Work Regulations 1999
The Low Voltage Electrical Equipment
(Safety) Regulations 1989
The Provision and Use of Work
Electrical equipment is in use
in almost every workplace. Electricity
has certain dangers that are not necessarily present with other equipment.
As a result there is a particular need to ensure the safety of all
people that use electrical equipment as part of their work or who could be
exposed to danger by faults in electrical equipment.
The term “portable” is not
determined by the size of the equipment but, quite simply, by the means by
which it is connected to the mains power supply.
Portable electrical equipment is connected to the fixed wiring by means
of a plug and cable.
Electricity poses the following
Many people have had an electric
shock at some time or another without lasting injury but this does not
demonstrate immunity, merely the unpredictable nature of the risk.
Slightly different circumstances could have resulted in death.
If the victims of electric shock do not die, they usually recover very
quickly unless there are other injuries for example burns, muscle damage or
injuries from falling as a result of the shock.
The danger of serious injury or
death is increased if the resistance through the body of the person touching a
live conductor is lowered. In
general this would occur if the point of contact with the conductor or the
ground, on which the person is standing, were wet.
Thus electrical equipment should never be used or switched on or off by
someone with wet hands or in a damp environment.
Some, but by no means all, electrical equipment is specially
constructed to cope with wet or damp environments.
If you have any doubt, do not use it in this type of environment.
nature and severity of injuries from electric shock depend on;
The magnitude of the current
The duration of the shock
The path of the current through the
The frequency of the electricity supply
If an electric current passes
through the body it will generate heat. The
main problem is that the burns caused by the passage of the current will not
just occur at the surface of the body. The
burns caused by electricity can be very severe and are often within the body.
The burns at the surface and at the point of entry and exit of the
current flow tend to be deep and take a long time to heal.
When excessive current flows in
an item of electrical equipment or a cable, heat will be generated.
The cause of too much current flow may be a fault condition or because
the wrong cable is being used which cannot carry the load.
The result of this excess heat can often be the cause of a fire.
Many fires in industry and in the home are caused by electrical faults.
Arcing, overheating and, in some
cases, electrical leakage can cause fire or explosion by igniting flammable
materials. This can cause death,
injury and considerable financial loss. The
intense ultraviolet radiation from an electric arc can also cause damage to
domestic supply of 230v / 50Hz should always be considered fatal]
Legislation and Records
In a workplace the employer has
a general duty, given by the Health and
Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 to ensure the safety of employees and those
affected by the work. The dangers
must therefore be identified and complying with the requirements of the
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to undertake risk
assessments does this. Where any
equipment is used, and this certainly includes electrical equipment, there is
a requirement under the Provision and
Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 to ensure that it is suitable for
the purpose for which it is provided or used.
All of this legislation is quite general and covers all equipment in
the workplace, it is not specific to electrical equipment.
This responsibility is made more specific in Great Britain under the Electricity
at Work Regulations 1989.
These require precautions to be taken against the risk of death or
injury from electricity during work at or near electrical systems (electrical
installations and equipment).
The regulations apply to employers, employees (including trainees) and the self-employed. They may all become duty holders; i.e. they have a responsibility to comply with the regulations where matters are within their control.
‘Requirements for electrical installations’,
although non-statutory, is a code of good engineering practice and makes
requirements for systems and equipment to be designed, constructed and
installed so that they can be used safely.
There is no specific requirement
for records to be held in any legislation.
However, it is important to know which equipment has been tested and
what the results are. This
information can help to spot problems before the equipment causes damage or
injury, or fails to work. In
addition it is important to be able to prove that the checks, inspections and
tests that are necessary to ensure that the electrical equipment remains safe,
have actually been done. Thus it
is important to ensure that records of the inspections and tests are taken.
This will usually require all electrical equipment to be uniquely
identifiable to link the records with specific items of equipment.
Frequencies are determined by risk assessment, however a general rule
of thumb for fixed wiring installations would be six monthly to five years
depending on its use. Portable
appliance testing (PAT), depends on the risk factor, and can be anything from
every three months to every four years. All
portable appliances should have a label attached to indicate that they have
been satisfactorily tested.
Safe Working Practices
accidents occur because people are working on or near equipment that is:
Thought to be dead but which is live;
Known to be live but those involved do
not have adequate training or appropriate equipment, or they have not taken
[Note: - Always assume conductors are ‘Live’ unless proved dead]
Work on or near live conductors is rarely permitted. Many accidents occur when persons are working on equipment that could have been isolated. Regulations require that ALL of the following three conditions must be met for live working to be permitted;
It is unreasonable in all circumstances
for the conductor to be dead.
It is reasonable in all circumstances
for the person to be at work on or near that conductor while it is live.
Suitable precautions, including
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), have been taken to prevent injury.
In general, equipment that has
been properly designed, constructed, installed and maintained does not present
a risk of electric shock or burn injury when used correctly.
Some equipment, not designed to prevent injury from shock or burn,
relies on the user having sufficient knowledge and experience to recognise the
danger and avoid it. For example, open-type switchboards, fuse boards, control
panels not insulated to IP2X should be located in a secure room or area, with
access available only competent persons.
IP2X/IPXXB - Constructed to
withstand BS Finger Probe (12mm diameter & 80mm in length).
IEE Regulations, Chapter 41,
‘Protection Against Electric Shock’
412-03-04 States: -
it is necessary to remove a barrier or to open an enclosure, or to remove part
of an enclosure, one or more of the following requirements must be satisfied;
The removal or opening shall only be possible by use of a key or tool.
The removal or opening should only be possible after disconnection of
the supply to the live part against which the barrier or enclosure affords
protection, restoration of the supply being possible only after replacement or
re-closure of the barrier of the enclosure.
An intermediate barrier shall be provided to prevent contact with a
live part, such a barrier affording protection of at least IP2X or IPXXB and
removable only by the use of a tool.
should be provided to securely disconnect electrical equipment from every
source of electrical energy, and comply with the following points;
Provide a positive break in live
Give clear indication as to whether it
is open or closed.
Prevent unauthorised operation by
Not allow inadvertent reconnection.
users should carry out a general
inspection of electrical equipment prior to use. The purpose of the user inspection is to identify any obvious
defects that might affect their safety. The
user should undertake no dismantling of the equipment unless they have been
suitably trained. The equipment
should be suitable for it’s intended purpose and be suitable for the
environment where it is located or where it is going to be used. No record would normally be made of a user inspection unless
some aspect was unsatisfactory. If
any serious defects are found, the equipment must not be used; it should be
removed from the workplace and reported to the responsible person concerned in
accordance with company procedures. The
means of isolation should be confirmed and proved. Examination should confirm that equipment is insulated to at
least IP2X, if not then the equipment isolated from the supply and proved dead
prior to working. The user should
also consider whether they are aware of any fault in the equipment and whether
it works properly.
checks are required for Portable/Hand Held Equipment
The flex should be checked to verify
that it is in good condition; it should be free from cuts and any fraying or
damage. You should also check
that, where the flex is positioned normally, this will not result in damage,
for example by being trapped, or be damaged by people walking on it or
tripping over it.
The plug should be checked to verify
that there are no cracks or damage, that there are no signs of overheating,
and that the flexible cable is secure in its anchorage.
The socket outlet or flex outlet should
be examined, where possible, to verify that there are no cracks or damage, and
that there are no signs of overheating.
Does the appliance work?
Does it switch on and off properly?
Is it free from any signs of contamination, damage to the case, any
signs of cracks? Could there
possibly be any access to live parts and can the equipment be used safely.
The equipment should be disconnected from the supply while the
examination is undertaken]
Finally, you should satisfy
yourself that the equipment is being used for the purpose it was originally
intended. If you are unsure, then
you should seek guidance from your supervisor, manager or safety advisor
Assessing The Risk
The first stage in controlling risk is to carry out a risk assessment in order to identify what needs to be done. The risk of injury from electricity is strongly linked to where and how it is used and the risks are greatest in harsh conditions, for example:
In wet surroundings - unsuitable
equipment can easily become live and can make its surroundings live;
Out of doors - equipment may not only
become wet but may be at greater risk of damage.
Some items of equipment can also
involve greater risk. Extension
leads are particularly liable to damage - to their plugs and sockets, to their
electrical connections, and to the cable itself.
Other flexible leads, particularly those connected to equipment, which
is moved a great deal, can suffer from similar problems.
Reducing the risk
Only use safe and suitable equipment
Choose equipment that is suitable for
its working environment.
Electrical risks can sometimes be
eliminated by using air, hydraulic or hand
Powered tools — These are especially
useful in harsh conditions.
Ensure that equipment is safe when
supplied and then maintain it in a safe condition.
For portable equipment, use
socket-outlets, which are close by, so that equipment can be easily
disconnected in an emergency.
Isolate supplies prior to working on or
Provide a safety device — See RCD’s
If equipment operating at 230 volts or higher is used, an RCD (residual current device) can provide additional safety. An RCD is a device, which detects some, but not all, faults in the electrical system and rapidly switches off the supply. RCD’s for protecting people have a rated tripping current (sensitivity) of not more than 30 milliamps (mA). An RCD should always be used to protect equipment outside or in a damp environment.
Always remember: -
An RCD is a valuable safety device,
never bypass it.
If the RCD trips, it is a sign there is
a fault — Check the system before using it again.
If the RCD trips frequently and no
fault can be found in the system, consult the manufacturer of the RCD.
If the RCD has a test button to check
that its mechanism is free and functioning — Test this regularly.
Underground power cables
Always assume cables will be present when digging in the street, pavement or near buildings. Use up-to-date service plans, cable avoidance tools and safe digging practice to avoid danger. Service plans should be available from regional electricity companies, local authorities, highways authorities, etc.
Overhead power lines
When working near overhead lines, it may be
possible to have them switched off. If
this cannot be done, consult the client with regard to the safe working distance
from the cables. Remember that
electricity can flash over from overhead lines even though plant and equipment
do not touch them. Over half of the
fatal electrical accidents each year are caused by contact with overhead lines.
Electrified railways and tramways
working near electrified railways or tramways, consult the line or track
operating company. Remember that
some railways and tramways use electrified rails rather than overhead cables.
of module and next steps
By reaching this point you will have finished studying this particular
module. You should now have
sufficient knowledge to answer the questions contained at the end of the module.
the questions should be forwarded to your Health and Safety Manager.
To answer Module 11 Questions click here