According to ‘Electrical Safety First’, in 2015/16 1380 fatalities and injuries were caused by electrical fires – an average of 27 each week, or 4 a day. A total of 54.4% of fires in England and Wales are thought to have been caused by poor electrical safety, with misuse of equipment being the main cause. Given appalling statistics like these, everyone (and especially businesses) should have an interest in ensuring reasonable standards of electrical safety.
Most incidents involving electricity can be prevented by proper planning and the use and maintenance of straightforward precautions.
Here are some of our top tips for helping to reduce the risks associated with electricity:
- Assess the risks properly. Consider all the circumstances in which electricity is used in your workplace and what you are currently doing to control the risks of electric shock, fire etc. You don’t need to be a technical expert or electrician to assess these risks, but you do need to make sure that a thorough check is made. Think about the following:
- is electrical equipment being used in wet or damp surroundings? Electricity and water don’t mix, so make sure your equipment has the appropriate IP Rating.
- is the equipment used outdoors, where it might be more prone to damage e.g. by cables being run over by vehicles? Protect cables or, better still, opt for cordless appliances.
- do you use electrical equipment in cramped spaces with a lot of earthed metalwork? There could be an increased risk of electric shock if a fault developed.
- do you use equipment that is more prone to damage, such as extension leads or hand-held electrical tools? If you do, you’ll need to check them regularly for damage.
- Reduce the risks to an acceptable level. This can be done by:
- ensuring that people working on or with your electrical equipment are competent to do so.
- wiring electrical systems to a suitable standard and maintaining them in a safe condition.
- choosing electrical equipment that is suitable for the working environment i.e. ‘Intrinsically safe’ in some flammable atmospheres or having the right ‘IP Rating’ in wet or dusty environments.
- using reduced voltage where possible e.g. 110V instead of 230V.
- using safety devices, such as Residual Current Devices (RCDs) when using portable appliances.
- Carry out periodic test and inspection. The frequency of such checks must be linked to the risk of damage of the appliance and not (as many organisations think) an arbitrary annual check. Checks can include:
- User pre-use checks; most obvious faults are found this way.
- A formal visual inspection by a competent person, involving slightly more detailed checks, including correct fusing.
- A combined inspection and test, carried out by a competent person as often as is necessary having regard to the risk of damage.
Equipment that is suspected of being faulty or damaged should be put out of use until it can be repaired by a competent person, or replaced.
Following the above principles can help to prevent accidents and serious property damage from fire. For further advice, or to arrange a training course that incorporates electrical safety principles, contact us on the number at the top of this page or email firstname.lastname@example.org