Electrical Hazards at work may be life-threatening if not managed appropriately. In this blog, we discuss how you can make your workplace safe from electrical hazards.
When it comes to electrical safety, the first thing you need to do is assess the electrical hazards in your workplace.
A great way to do this is to talk to your workers, and ensure they can tell you what they consider to be the hazardous pieces of equipment or any situations that they’re aware of where there’s any electrical risks.
Another way you can check for hazards is to get out there and observe the workplace using inspection checklists.
Like many other hazards, you will identify things like broken electrical outlets, and damaged cords in your inspections. You also want to specifically look for any portable electrical equipment. It’s much more likely to be damaged and hazardous if people are picking it up and dropping it down compared to something fixed, like a fridge which isn’t going to be moved around very much.
You should also be looking for things that have long flexible electrical cords. The more cord there is, the more risk there is that that thing has been run over, stepped on, moved, or stretched.
Any electrical work will also be hazardous in itself, but we are not going to focus on electrical work in this particular video. Just be aware that anyone who is doing electrical work will be exposed to hazards.
When it comes to risk assessment, there is not usually a specific electrical safety risk assessment, as this is instead incorporated into other risk assessments. For example, if you’re doing a risk assessment on an item of equipment, you should include electrical safety as one of the hazards for that particular equipment.
As an example, if you’re looking at particular tasks in the construction work environment, you will include electrical safety in your Safe Work Method Statement and your risk assessment is all part of that Safe Work Method Statement that you did. It’s just making sure that you include electrical safety in whatever other risk management process you’re doing.
When it comes to risk control, you need to make sure that you’re managing electrical risks out there. A good way to do this is to use the hierarchy of control matrix, which you can see in the video.
Elimination & Substitution:
The first two stages of the hierarchy of control cannot really be considered when it comes to electrical safety.
- It’s pretty hard to use elimination – you are for sure going to need electricity for most of the items that you use
- You can’t really substitute electricity with anything else
Engineering is the best control for your electrical hazards. One of the best engineering controls is a safety switch which is also called a residual current device or RCD. These are devices that when they sense a leakage of electrical current will cut the supply and potentially save someone’s life. They’re always on, anytime you have an electrical device that’s plugged into a circuit that’s covered by an RCD, so long as that RCD is working properly and tested then you will be safe from electrocution. It is going to save lives that’s for sure so we recommend those as our primary engineering control for electrical safety.
We’ve got an example in the video of what a residual current device looks like. They can be portable or fixed depending on the type of workplace that you’re in.
Another thing to consider is the position of your power outlets. Oftentimes, the risk tends to increase due to long electrical cords running through the workplace. Consider the potential of having things like suspended power outlets coming down from the ceiling. This way, you will not be running cords in areas where there’s lots of foot traffic or rolling equipment that can crush and damage cords.
The administrative controls are going to include any procedures relevant to electrical safety but, also includes appropriate testing and tagging of your electrical devices.
There is a particular schedule as far as what type of frequency you need to have for your testing and tagging, but it is also important to realise that Test and Tag is only really 100% relevant at the time that it’s tested. So, if something has a 12-month frequency for it’s testing and tagging, there is no guarantees that after that thing is tested, that it’s not going to be damaged sometime in that next 12 months. So, Test and Tag is an additional control but you should still rely on safety switches.
Personal protective equipment will be relevant for electrical workers but not really relevant for other types of electrical hazards.
In the video, you can see a picture of the frequency that is recommended for testing and tagging. This image comes from Workplace Health and Safety, Queensland, so it’s relevant to Queensland legislation but other Australian states will have very similar frequencies.
You can see from the image that it depends on where you work. If you work somewhere that’s low risk, such as an office environment, you only have to Test and Tag your electrical items about every 5 years and you don’t even have to do it if they’re plugged into a safety switch. Whereas if you work in a construction work environment, it is mandatory to Test and Tag your electrical devices and they have to be done every 3 months.
- You need to make sure you control electrical hazards as best you can using the hierarchy of control – Use safety switches or residual current devices on every circuit that your devices are plugged into.
- Make sure you consider the location of your power outlets and reduce the risk of cord damage through that.
- Where this doesn’t control the risk, you need to use Test and Tag as an additional control and any safety procedures that are relevant for electrical safety.