Electrical hazards refers to situations associated with electricity generation which has the potential to cause harm. Electrical hazard is one of the leading causes of accident in the workplace, hence it should be well managed; this is why we will be covering “Electrical Hazard Control Measures in this article”.
At the end of this article, you will be made to understand very important Electrical hazard and the associated control measures and how to implement them in the workplace to manage electrical hazards.
The main hazards of working with electricity are:
- Electric shock
- Electric burn
- Electrical explosion or arcing
- Fires from faulty wiring
- Overloading circuits
- Leaving electrical parts exposed
- Contact with overhead power lines
- Electrical exposure to water
Electrical shock occurs when the body becomes part of the electric circuit, either when an individual comes in contact with both wires of an electrical circuit, one wire of an energized circuit and the ground, or a metallic part that has become energized by contact with an electrical conductor.
Electric shocks can also lead to other types of injury, for example by causing a fall from ladders or scaffolds etc.
The severity and effects of an electrical shock depend on a number of factors, such as the pathway through the body, the amount of current, the length of time of the exposure, and whether the skin is wet or dry. Water is a great conductor of electricity, allowing current to flow more easily in wet conditions and through wet skin. The effect of the shock may range from a slight tingle to severe burns to cardiac arrest.
Read Also: 21 Examples of electrical hazards
An electrical burn is a damage to skin tissue and organs when electricity comes in contact with your body. Electrical burns can be caused by touching or grasping electrically live objects, short-circuiting, inserting fingers into electrical sockets, and falling into electrified water.
Electrical explosion or arcing
A high current fault can create an electrical explosion by forming a high energy arc flash which rapidly vaporizes metal and insulation material. An electrical explosion is the sudden release of energy due to a short circuit between power phases or a phase to ground.
Causes of Electrical Hazards:
- Faulty or damage wiring or equipment.
- Loose connections.
- Use of poor quality fittings.
- Lack of earthing/bonding and grounding.
- Use of overrated fuse or jumper.
- Working on live equipment.
- Overloading of power sockets and equipment.
- Poor housekeeping.
- Handling of electrical equipment with an incompetent person and lack of training awareness.
- Lack of safe working procedure and communication.
- Failure to use appropriate PPE and use.
- Lack of warning signs.
Electrical Hazard Control Measures
- Carry our risk assessment: You must ensure an assessment has been made of any electrical hazards, which covers:
- Who could be harmed by them
- How the level of risk has been established
- The precautions taken to control that risk
The risk assessment should take into consideration the type of electrical equipment used, the way in which it is used and the environment that it is used in.
2. Assess all electrical installations: You must make sure that the electrical installation and the electrical equipment are:
- Suitable for its intended use and the conditions in which it is operated
- Only used for its intended purpose
3. Use Fuses, circuit-breakers appropriately: In wet surroundings, unsuitable equipment can become live and make its surroundings live too. Fuses, circuit-breakers and other devices must be correctly rated for the circuit they protect. Isolators and fuse-box cases should be kept closed and, if possible, locked.
4. Use robust electrical accessories: Cables, plugs, sockets and fittings must be robust enough and adequately protected for the working environment.
5. Ensure machinery has emergency stop key: Ensure that machinery has an accessible switch or isolator to cut off the power quickly in an emergency.
6. Adequate maintenance: So far as is reasonably practicable, you must make sure that electrical equipment and installations are maintained to prevent danger.
7. Timely inspection: Users of electrical equipment, including portable appliances, should carry out visual checks. Remove the equipment from use immediately and check it, repair it or replace it if:
- The plug or connector is damaged
- The cable has been repaired with tape, is not secure, or internal wires are visible etc
- Burn marks or stains are present (suggesting overheating)
Have more frequent checks for items more likely to become damaged (eg portable electrical tools and equipment that is regularly moved, or used frequently or in arduous environments). Less frequent checks are needed for equipment less likely to become damaged (eg desktop computers etc).
Visual checks are not usually necessary for small, battery-powered items, or for equipment that works from a mains-powered adaptor (laptops or cordless phones etc). However, the mains-powered adaptor for such equipment should be visually checked.
Read Also: 11 Common Fire Hazards in the Workplace
8. Repairs should be done by competent personnel: Repairs should only be carried out by a competent person (someone who has the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to carry out the work safely).
- Don’t work on live equipment, isolation and multi lock system shall be followed.
- Don’t hang cloth or any material on electrical equipment.
- Handling of electrical equipment or switchgear shall not be done with wet hand or body.
- Electrical switches or access to them shall not block by any material.
- Use appropriate PPE while working on electrical equipment.
- Use safe work practices every time electrical equipment is used.
- Know the location and how to operate shut-off switches and/or circuit breaker panels. Use these devices to shut off equipment in the event of a fire or electrocution.
- Limit the use of extension cords. Use only for temporary operations and then only for short periods of time. In all other cases, request installation of a new electrical outlet.
- Multi-plug adapters must have circuit breakers or fuses.
- Place exposed electrical conductors (such as those sometimes used with electrophoresis devices) behind shields.
- Minimize the potential for water or chemical spills on or near electrical equipment.
- All electrical cords should have sufficient insulation to prevent direct contact with wires. In a laboratory, it is particularly important to check all cords before each use, since corrosive chemicals or solvents may erode the insulation.
- Damaged cords should be repaired or taken out of service immediately, especially in wet environments such as cold rooms and near water baths.
- Live parts of electric equipment operating at 50 Volts or more (i.e., electrophoresis devices) must be guarded against accidental contact. Plexiglas shields may be used to protect against exposed live parts.
- Only equipment with two-prong plugs should be used in the laboratory. The two prong provides a path to ground for internal electrical short circuits, thereby protecting the user from a potential electrical shock.
- Ensure that workers know how to use the electrical equipment safely
- Make sure enough sockets are available. Check that socket outlets are not overloaded by using unfused adaptors as this can cause fires
- Ensure there are no trailing cables that can cause people to trip or fall
- Switch off and unplug appliances before cleaning or adjusting them
- Ensure everyone looks for electrical wires, cables or equipment near where they are going to work and check for signs warning of dangers from electricity, or any other hazard. Checks should be made around the job, and remember that electrical cables may be within walls, floors and ceilings (especially when drilling into these locations) etc
- Make sure anyone working with electricity has sufficient skills, knowledge and experience to do so. Incorrectly wiring a plug can be dangerous and lead to fatal accidents or fires
- Stop using equipment immediately if it appears to be faulty – have it checked by a competent person
- Ensure any electrical equipment brought to work by employees, or any hired or borrowed, is suitable for use before using it and remains suitable by being maintained as necessary
- Consider using a residual current device (RCD)between the electrical supply and the equipment, especially when working outdoors, or within a wet or confined place.
- Be aware of the dangers of working near or underneath overhead power lines. Electricity can flash over from them, even though machinery or equipment may not touch them.
- Don’t work under them when equipment (eg ladders, a crane jib, a tipper-lorry body or a scaffold pole) could come within a minimum of six metres of a power line without getting advice. Speak to the line owner, eg the electricity company, railway company or tram operator, before any work begins.
- Always assume cables will be present when digging in the street, pavement and/or near buildings.
- Consult local electricity companies and service plans to identify where cables are located.
Knowing Electrical hazard control measures is the only way to manage electrical risk in your workplace and homes. However, you need to follow these preventive and precautionary measures for electrical hazard meticulously.
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