What is an electrical risk?
An electrical risk is a risk to a person of death, shock or other injury caused directly or indirectly by electricity.
The main hazards associated with these risks are:
- Contact with exposed live parts causing electric shock and burns (for example, exposed leads or other electrical equipment coming into contact with metal surfaces such as metal flooring or roofs).
- Faults which could cause fires.
- Fire or explosion where electricity could be the source of ignition in a potentially flammable or explosive atmosphere (for example in a spray paint booth).
The risk of injury from electricity is strongly linked to where and how it is used. The risks are greatest in harsh conditions, for example:
- Outdoors or in wet surroundings—equipment may become wet and may be at greater risk of damage.
- In cramped spaces with earthed metalwork, such as inside a tank or bin—it may be difficult to avoid electrical shock if an electrical fault develops.
Some items of equipment can also involve greater risk than others. Portable electrical equipment is particularly liable to damage including to plugs and sockets, electrical connections and to the cable itself. Extension leads, particularly those connected to equipment which is frequently moved, can suffer from similar problems.
Electrocution incidents can be fatal, while non-fatal shocks can result in serious and permanent burn injuries to skin, internal tissues and damage to the heart depending on the length and severity of the shock.
Electric shocks from faulty electrical equipment may also lead to related injuries, including falls from ladders, scaffolding or other elevated work platforms.
Those working with electricity may not be the only ones at risk. Poor electrical installation and faulty electrical appliances can lead to electric shock to others at or near the workplace.
Dependent on the context and conditions, but may include for example:
- Ensure only appropriately licensed or registered electricians carry out electrical work.
- Switch off electricity where possible before working on equipment.
- Ensure electrical equipment is in good working order (testing and tagging).
- Use battery operated tools rather than mains power tools where possible.
- Remove damaged, unsafe electrical equipment or cords from the workplace.
- Ensure tag out and isolation procedures are in place and used.
- Use residual current devices (or safety switches) with portable equipment (as per the WHS Regulations)
- Don't overload power sockets.
- Meet electrical safety standards.