Electricity is part of everyday life, without it many tasks in our day to day life would be impossible. It’s also a big part of our working lives with most job roles containing an aspect of using electrical devices to complete tasks. Other roles come into direct contact with electricity such as electricians.
What defines an electrical accident?
An electrical accident is an accident that exposes the user to a direct electrical current. More often than not this can lead to an electric shock, which occurs when an extremity such as a finger, hand or arm is placed across an electric current.
Electric shocks can vary drastically in severity, mild electric shock will leave a slight tingling sensation. Moderate electrical shocks can cause the muscles to contract, this can make it very difficult to pull away from the electrical current. Severe electric shocks can lead to respiratory or heart failure.
Electrical fires are also classified as electrical accidents, these occur when the electrical current ignites flammable materials. These fires are extremely dangerous as if you try to put out the fire by pouring water on them it could result in an electric shock.
Electrical burns are a severe electric shock causes tissue to burn, these burns can be external or internal. Internal burns are the result of the electrical current taking a path through bone and burns deep tissue.
There’s a huge list of reasons why the accident has occurred, but they are commonly caused by poorly maintained electrical equipment, faulty or exposed wiring and unchecked electrical appliances.
Electrical Accidents in the UK
During 2015/16 just electrical fires caused 1380 fatalities or injuries, that’s an average of 4 a day. The leading cause of these fires are cookers and ovens causing 679 of the fatalities or injuries. Over half (54.4%) of all fires in England during 2015/16 were caused by electricity.
Of this 54.4% (15,432) the most common cause was due to misuse of equipment or appliance (7,392). Appliance or supply fault followed closely behind causing 6,226 of the fires.
During 2017/18 three people lost their lives due to safety-related electrical incidents in Great Britain, during the same period 315 people suffered serious injuries. Both of which are down from 7 and 351 respectively during 2016/17 and there has been a general downward trend in the number of serious and fatal accidents where electricity has been involved.
How can employers prevent electrical accidents?
Employers have an overriding duty of care to protect the people they employee, they should do their best to minimise the risk of an accident occurring by:
Conducting regular risk assessments
All workplaces and employers should conduct regular risk assessments, employers should ensure they look into and assess the danger that electricity may pose to its employees. Once they have identified the risks an action plan should be put in place to combat the risk. This could mean replacing old equipment and cabling or reconfiguring the layout of an office.
This isn’t a one off job and should be repeated on a regular basis, once a month is normally suitable. This will enable you to identify how the risks are changing over time and means you can keep the risk as low as possible.
Ensure all electrical equipment is maintained and in a good condition
Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) is the process of examining electrical products and equipment to ensure they are safe to use. It’s not a legal requirement to have equipment tested, but it’s encouraged to ensure that the equipment is not a risk to those using it.
It’s a simple visual examination to try and identify any defects that may not have been noticed unless testing takes place, potentially posing a risk to the user.
Ensure any working area is safe to work in
Workplaces should be designed to minimise the risk employees face while completing their day to day tasks. This can be achieved a number of different ways including: identifying electrical sources, ensuring electricity is turned off when working near power supplies and wiring or using suitable personal protective equipment for the job.
If you’re working in a public place then you should also ensure the safety of the public, this can be done by erecting barriers at an appropriate distance away with warning signs and putting up signs where there are live electrical circuits.
Provide appropriate personal protective equipment
Employers should provide their employees with the correct personal protective equipment. This equipment will need to be in good condition and suitable for the job its required for. Staff should also be provided with the training and guidance needed to use the equipment effectively.
Provide employees with up to date training
Employers should provide their employees with the correct and up-to-date training for minimising the risk of an electrical accident occurring. This should include: how to report faulty equipment, what warning and hazard signs mean and how to react in an emergency situation.
Injury Lawyers UK
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