Copyright copy; 2012 Ted Boynton NEBOSH
Anyone who works with electricity in any form needs to be aware of certain hazards and risks which apply in almost any situation. The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 apply to standard safety practice in the United Kingdom. Anyone who is connected in any way with the health and safety of their working environment in an official capacity needs to be aware of the regulations contained within this legislation.
Working with electricity always bears some element of risk, but there are particular risks associated with working with live parts. These are parts which are directly touching or indirectly via another conducting material or object a potential source of electricity. When the voltages involved are higher than 50 volts Alternating Current (AC) or 120 volts Direct Current (DC) are considered to be very hazardous.
People who are especially vulnerable to the dangers posed by electrical materials are those who are working on maintenance projects. Another group at risk are those who work with electrically powered machinery or plant. Yet another prominent group who face some hazards are those working in harsher environments, such as outdoor sites
This makes establishing safe systems of work a crucial part of managing any project, especially those that fit into the above categories. The actual dangers of exposure to electrical current vary, but they are invariably unpleasant. Burns are the most obvious primary injury, but receiving a shock can lead to secondary injuries such as broken limbs or head injuries from falls.
Misuse of equipment by people who have not been properly trained in how to use it is a frequent cause of these accidents. Poor training in how to recognize risky behaviour is another cause of hazards. Often employees do not recognize plant or equipment which is dangerous in itself or being used dangerously.
Training is therefore key in keeping people safe, and frequent refresher courses and updates are crucial. Equipment should also be constructed properly and be tested, especially if it is being used outdoors. Inexperienced workers using equipment should always be supervised.
Another way of minimizing the potential dangers of using electrically powered tools is to use alternative sources of power instead. Hydraulic or hand-powered tools can often function in a safer way, especially in harsh outdoor environments. Using portable tools with a lower voltage, portable power source is also another way if helping improve safety at work.
Using a lockout tagout procedure when maintaining equipment is another important step to take. This is where machines are rendered inoperable, by locking the power source to the hasp in a position which means it cannot be turned on. A tag on the machine also indicates clearly that the equipment is not to be turned on and used.
Considerations of electrical safety should therefore always be at the heart of any programme which looks to manage the health and safety of people at work. With this always in mind, officers in a workplace who are responsible for this type of thing need to be absolutely informed of the law, especially the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989. In such matters, ignorance is no defence, especially when lives are at stake.
Lockout Tagout Safety Ltd. is a company based in industrial Teesside UK which is a popular provider of quality lockout tagout equipment to UK and world markets. Go now to a href=http://www.lockout-tagout.co.ukour website/a for further news, or download our new a href=http://www.lockoutsystems.co.uk/DownloadC.php2011 Lockout Tagout Safety Catalogue/a with 600+ specialised tools. Ted Boynton (BSc Hons., NEBOSH) is the General Manager.