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Safety, Hazards, and Risks in ECE Workplace

When we refer to hazards in relation to occupational safety and health the most
commonly used definition is A Hazard is a potential source of harm or adverse health effect on
a person or persons.
The terms Hazard and Risk are often used interchangeably but this simple example
explains the difference between the two.
If there was a spill of water in a room then that water would present a slipping hazard to
persons passing through it. If access to that area was prevented by a physical barrier then the
hazard would remain though the risk would be minimized
When we refer to risk in relation to occupational safety and health the most commonly
used definition is risk is the likelihood that a person may be harmed or suffers adverse health
effects if exposed to a hazard.
Risk from Electricity

Harm can be caused to any person when they are exposed to live parts that are either
touched directly or indirectly by means of some conducting object or material. Voltages over 50
volts AC or 120 volts DC are considered hazardous.

Electricity can kill. Each year about 1000 accidents at work involving electric shocks or
burns are reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Around 30 of these are fatal, most
of them arising from contact with overhead or underground power cables.

Shocks from faulty equipment can cause severe and permanent injury and can also lead
to indirect injuries, due to falls from ladders, scaffolds, or other work platforms.

Faulty electrical appliances can also lead to fires. As well as causing injuries and loss of
life, fires cause damage to plant, equipment and property.

Anyone can be exposed to the dangers of electricity while at work and everyone should
be made aware of the dangers. Those most at risk include maintenance staff, those working
with electrical plant, equipment and machinery, and people working in harsh environments
such as construction sites.

Most electrical accidents occur because individuals:

are working on or near equipment which is thought to be dead but which is, in fact, live
are working on or near equipment which is known to be live, but where those involved
are without adequate training or appropriate equipment, or they have not taken adequate

misuse equipment or use electrical equipment which they know to be faulty.

Legal duties and obligations around electricity

As well as a moral duty on employers to protect employees and members of the
public, General Health and Safety Legislation covers all employers and workplaces.
In addition, specific duties and obligations are laid out in the following regulations:

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 These regulations apply to all aspects of the use
of electricity within the workplace from electrical supplies to the use of electrical equipment.
They place a duty on employers, employees and the self-employed to:

have the electrical systems constructed in a way that prevents danger

maintain their electrical systems as necessary to prevent danger

have work on, use of, or closure of, electrical systems carried out in a way that prevents


electrical equipment used in hazardous environments (e.g. extremes of weather,

temperature, corrosive conditions) must be constructed or protected to prevent it becoming

only those with adequate knowledge or experience, or who are under adequate
supervision should work with, or on, electrical equipment that could cause danger or injury.

The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995

(RIDDOR) These regulations cover the reporting of certain incidents, including those involving
You must notify the enforcing authority immediately by telephone using the Incident
Reporting Line 0845 300 9923 or via the Health and Safety Executive's Incident Report page
(external site)
The following incidents must be reported:

injury to staff due to an electric shock or electrical burn leading to unconsciousness or

requiring resuscitation; or admittance to hospital

electrical short circuit or overload causing fire or explosion

plant or equipment coming into contact with overhead power lines.

Assessing the risks from electricity

Consider the following hazards in your risk assessment:

Live parts Normal mains voltage, 230 volts AC, can kill. Also, contact with live parts can
cause shocks and burns.
Fire Electrical faults can cause fires. This is particularly true where the equipment
contains a heat source (e.g. heaters, including water heaters, washing machines, ovens, heat-
seal packaging equipment).
Flammable or explosive atmospheres Electricity can be a source of ignition in a
potentially flammable or explosive atmosphere, e.g. in spray paint booths or around refuelling
Where and how electricity is used The risks from electricity are greatest in harsh
In wet conditions, unsuitable equipment can easily become live and can make its
surroundings live.
While outdoors, equipment may not only become wet but may be at greater risk of
In cramped or confined spaces with a lot of earthed metalwork, such as inside tanks,
ducts and silos, if an electrical fault develops it can be very difficult to avoid a shock.
Types of equipment in use Some items of equipment can also involve greater risk than
others. Extension leads are particularly liable to damage to their plugs and sockets, cables, and
electrical connections. Other flexible leads, particularly those connected to equipment that is
moved a great deal, can suffer from similar problems
Basic electrical safety
Below are some minimum steps you should take to ensure electrical safety.

Mains supplies

install new electrical systems to BS 7671 Requirements for Electrical Installations

maintain all electrical installations in good working order

provide enough socket-outlets for equipment in use

avoid overloading socket-outlets using adaptors can cause fires

provide an accessible and clearly identified switch ('Emergency Off' or 'EMO' button)
near fixed machinery to cut off power in an emergency
for portable equipment, connect to nearby socket-outlets so that it can be easily
disconnected in an emergency.

Use the right equipment

choose electrical equipment that is suitable for its working environment

ensure that equipment is safe when supplied and maintain it in a safe condition

electrical equipment used in flammable/explosive atmospheres should be designed not

to produce sparks. Seek specialist advice when choosing this type of equipment.

protect light bulbs and other easily damaged equipment there is a risk of electric shock
if they are broken.

Maintenance and repairs

ensure equipment is fitted with the correctly rated fuse.

ensure cable ends always have their outer sheaths firmly clamped to stop wires working
loose from plugs or inside equipment

replace damaged sections of cable completely never repair cuts with insulating tape.

use proper connectors to join lengths of cable don't use connector blocks covered in
insulating tape or 'splice' wires by twisting them together

some equipment is double insulated. These are often marked with a double-square
symbol. The supply leads have only two wires live (brown) and neutral (blue)

make sure all wires are connected securely if the 13A plug is not a moulded-on type.