Electricity is essential to us, it plays a part in most peoples working life; many of us could not do our jobs without it. It does have a dangerous side and needs to respected and treated with caution. You can’t usually see electricity, smell it or actually hear it, but there can be serious consequences if you are exposed to it.
The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 states employers are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of their employees and the public, if they are at risk from work activities. With regard to the dangers associated with electricity in the workplace, this responsibility is further detailed under the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989.
Although these acts have been in force for some time now, every year thousands of accidents in the workplace involving electricity are reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Often, many of these accidents could have been avoided if a risk assessment had been carried out, and careful planning and appropriate precautions had been implemented.
So what and where are the risks associated with electricity at work? Here we take a look at some of the hazards encountered by workers, and some of the precautions that help avoid accidents;
How electricity poses a danger to employees
- Electric shock and burns from contact with live parts. Shocks can lead to other types of personal injury, such falls from height, ladders or scaffolding.
- Due to unsuitable, inadequate, and damaged/faulty electrical equipment.
- Injury due to poor equipment maintenance, testing and repair.
- Static electricity can ignite flammable liquids, vapours, airborne dusts.
- Faulty electrical appliances often lead to fire, which may affect and cause injury to others.
What should employers do?
All employers are affected by the health and safety act and have duties and responsibilities. All employers must assess the risks posed by their business activities. If employing five or more employees, the risk assessment must be carried out with written records maintained as evidence.
The risk assessment should include;
- The type of risk posed.
- Those who might be affected?
- How the level of risk was established.
- Precautions taken to control identified risks.
- Equipment and installation maintenance programs and records.
The risk assessment must consider the type of electrical equipment used and the environment that it is used in. Employees working with electricity and electrical equipment must be competent to do the job. Records must detail safety training where deemed appropriate.
Industry is often a harsh environment. Damage to equipment can occur at any time and go unnoticed. Periodic inspection of electrical appliances is an essential part of the process of ensuring personal safety. If an electrical appliance fails any part of its examination the technician must ensure the equipment cannot be used before it is made safe. The appliance should be removed from the work place, and segregated and a red ‘fail’ identification label affixed and clearly visible. No further electrical testing is carried out to appliances that fail visual inspection.
Safety signs save lives
Safety signs warn employees and others of hazards; they inform and prepare anyone within the vicinity of the hazard of its existence. Appropriately displayed signage is an employer’s responsibility and visibly displays the commitment to health and safety, and in preventing accidents and injuries in the workplace.
Electrical equipment labels help identifies specific electrical details and safety features. They provide assurance of continued fitness for purpose, or warn otherwise. Safety signs provide a constant visual reminder of the need to take care.
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