Working Safely With Electricity At Work

How Safe Is Electricity In Your Workplace?

Electricity can kill. Most deaths are caused by contact with overhead or underground power cables. Even non-fatal shocks can cause severe and permanent injury. Shocks from faulty equipment may lead to falls from ladders, scaffolds or other work platforms. Those using electricity may not be the only ones at risk. Poor electrical installations and faulty electrical appliances can lead to fires which can also result in death or injury to others.

      • Does anyone do electrical work in your business? Only those with appropriate technical knowledge and experience should be allowed to do this.
      • Is your electrical equipment in good working order?
      • Do you choose equipment that is suitable for its working environment, eg waterproof or dust-proof?
      • Do you dig in the street, pavement or near buildings? Knowing the proper precautions for avoiding underground cables is essential.
      • Do you work near or under overhead power-lines? There are essential safety precautions to follow.

Work Equipment And Machinery

Do you know how to select and use your work equipment? Work equipment covers an enormous range spanning process machinery, machine tools, office machines, lifting equipment, hand tools, ladders and pressure washers. Important points include: selecting the right equipment for the job, making sure equipment is safe to use and keeping it safe through regular maintenance, inspection and, if appropriate, thorough examination, training employees to use equipment safely and following manufacturers’ or suppliers’ instructions. Accidents involving work equipment happen all the time – many serious, some fatal.

          • Do you use ladders or other equipment for working at heights? For example, it may often be safer to use an access tower or mobile elevating work platform than a ladder.
          • Do you have machinery of any kind? You need to guard the parts that could cause injury; have the right controls, especially for starting and stopping; clean, or clear blockages in a safe way; and carry out preventive checks, maintenance and inspection.
          • Are hand tools used in your workplace, eg screwdrivers, knives, hand saws, meat cleavers, hammers?
          • Do you have lifting equipment such as pulley blocks, cranes, and lift trucks?


Most lifting equipment will require regular thorough examination by a competent person. What law applies?

          • Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
          • Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998
          • Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 1992, as amended 1994

Maintenance and building work

What maintenance and building work takes place? It’s easy to overlook these activities because they happen now and again, and it’s often a contractor or service agency doing the work. Sometimes people are in places where no one normally goes, eg the roof or electrical switchboard. They may be fault finding, trying to repair something quickly – often outside the routine. Not surprisingly there are many accidents. Falls from heights, eg ladders, are the most common cause of serious injury.

          • Did you know that if you are the person responsible for your business, you are also responsible for contractors, service engineers, etc who do work for you?
          • Does anyone ever have to work on the roof, at a height or on fragile materials?
          • Does anyone have to fault find and repair machinery or equipment when it breaks down?
          • Is there a tank, pit, silo or similar confined space into which someone might go and would you know if they did?
          • Have you found out whether there is any asbestos in your buildings or plant which could be disturbed during maintenance or alterations?


What law applies?

      • Construction (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1996 (building work)
      • Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007
      • Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998
      • Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
      • Confined Spaces Regulations 1997
      • Work at Height Regulations 2005