Working with electricity presents obvious dangers and there are many electrical accidents at work that occur in the UK every year, ranging from minor shocks and burns to serious injuries. The extent of injury depends upon the kind of electrical equipment and the level of voltage.
Not all accidents at work occur in high-risk industrial environments, electrical accidents at work can take place in low-risk environments as well.
Electrical accidents at work can be prevented if employers properly risk assess to ensure employees are not put in danger.
What are the different types of electrical accidents at work?
The main injuries associated with working with electricity are shocks and burns.
While most electric shocks do not cause lasting injury, exposure to live electricity can lead to serious injury or even death.
Workers in industries that have live overhead power lines such as the rail or electricity networks are most at risk of serious injury as accidental contact with live power lines can prove fatal.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, work involving high vehicles or working at height is a significant factor in electrical accidents at work. Examples would include lorry mounted cranes in construction or combines used in the agricultural industry.
What causes electrical accidents at work?
One of the most common causes of electrical accidents at work is faulty or poorly maintained electrical equipment as well as working with live parts or near equipment that is thought to be dead, but is live.
Employers that fail to regularly check and maintain electrical equipment in the workplace increase the risk of injury for their employees. All workplaces should as a minimum be carrying out what is known as PAT (Portable appliance testing); a system for regularly checking electrical equipment and machinery should also be in place – this will help to safeguard against accidents.
Ensuring workers are aware of the risks posed by equipment they use regularly is essential. Employees should be properly trained on how to use and maintain electrical equipment and machinery particularly if it is equipment they use frequently; doing so will greatly reduce electrical workplace accidents.
How to avoid electrical accidents at work?
There are a number of measures employers (and employees) can take to minimise the risk of electrical accidents at work.
The Health and Safety Executive recommends a series of simple precautions, including:
- Performing a risk assessment for the work you are planning and any potential electrical hazards involved
- Identifying where it is safe to work and putting up danger signs to highlight unsafe areas
- Making sure that employees are adequately trained to use electrical equipment and machinery
- Ensuring that electrical equipment is properly maintained and regularly checked before use
What is the law around electrical safety at work?
It is your employer’s responsibility to protect you at work. Most electrical accidents at work can be easily prevented if employers follow good practice and safeguard their employees.
There are regulations in place to protect workers from accidents involving electricity. The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 were introduced to force employers to protect workers from injury caused by electricity. The regulations place duties and obligations on employers regarding the use of electrical equipment to prevent danger in the workplace from electrical equipment, in all working environments, from industrial workplaces to offices.
What do to do if you suffer an electrical accident at work
For more information about electrical accidents at work, visit our #ForEveryWorkerInjured campaign page below. Alternatively, if you have suffered an accident at work involving electricity, you may be entitled to make a claim for compensation, click below to visit our accident at work claims page for advice.