In this blog we talk about how to manage electrical safety in your workplace.
Michael discusses what you need to know about electrical safety in your office, your factory, your workshop or anywhere in your workplace.
You obviously need to start off by talking about what are your electrical hazards in the workplace.
You’re always going to have a talk to your workers and make sure that they can tell you what they consider to be the hazardous pieces of equipment or any situations that they’re aware of where there’s any electrical risks.
In addition, you need to get out there and observe your workplace using your inspection checklists.
Like so many other hazards, you will identify things like broken electrical outlets, damaged cords those sorts of things in your inspections.
Now specifically what we’re really looking for also, is having a good close look at any portable electrical equipment. They are much more likely to be damaged and hazardous if people are picking it up, dropping it down, putting it in the back of utes, those sorts of things compared to something fixed, like a fridge which is really never going to be moved around very much.
You’re looking for things that have long flexible electrical cords. The more cord there is, the more risk there is that that thing has been run over, stepped on, moved, stretched something like that along the way as well.
Of course, any electrical work is going to be hazardous in itself. I'm not going to be focusing on electrical work in this particular video but be aware that anyone who is doing electrical work there’s obviously some hazards there.
2. Risk Assessment
When it comes to doing your risk assessments, you don’t tend to do specific electrical safety risk assessments, but you tend to incorporate it into our other risk assessments.
For example, you’re doing a risk assessment on an item of equipment, you should include electrical safety as one of the hazards for that particular equipment.
If you’re looking at particular tasks, for example, in the construction work environment, you will include electrical safety in your Safe Work Method Statement and your risk assessment is all part of that Safe Work Method Statement that you did.
It’s just making sure that we include electrical safety in whatever other risk management process that we’re doing.
3. Risk Control
For risk control, you need to make sure that you're managing your electrical risks.
You should know the Hierarchy of Control pretty well by now. You need to make sure that you're trying to use that Hierarchy of Control as much as possible.
Now it is pretty hard to eliminate electrical risks. We need electricity for most of the items that we use and you can’t really substitute it with anything else either.
Engineering is the best control for your electrical hazards.
One of the main engineering things that you can use is an RCD or safety switches.
You really want to make sure that everything you have plugged in is covered by a safety switch or RCD.
Here is an example of what an RCD device looks like.
They can be portable or fixed depending on the type of workplace that you’re in.
These devices sense a leakage of electrical current and will cut the supply and potentially save someone’s life.
They’re always on and anytime you have an electrical device that’s plugged into a circuit that’s covered by an RCD, so long as that RCD is working properly and tested then you will be safe from electrocution.
It is going to save lives that’s for sure so we recommend those as our primary engineering control for electrical safety.
Other things to consider include where you’ve got your power outlets.
Oftentimes you tend to increase the risk because you’ve got big long electrical cords running through the workplace.
You need to consider the locations of power outlets and potentially having things like suspended power outlets coming down from the ceiling. This means you’re not running cords in areas where there’s lots of foot traffic or rolling equipment that can crush and damage cords. Therefore, consideration of power outlets is really important.
Our administrative controls are going to be:
- any procedures relevant to electrical safety, and
- appropriate testing and tagging of our electrical devices.
It important to realise that Test and Tag is only really 100% relevant at the time that it’s tested. If something has a 12-month frequency for it’s testing and tagging, there are no guarantees that after that thing is tested, that it’s not going to be damaged sometime in that next 12 months.
Test and Tag is an additional control but we prefer to rely on safety switches.
Here we can see a picture of the frequency that is recommended for testing and tagging, this comes from Workplace Health and Safety, Queensland. It’s relevant to Queensland legislation but other Australian states will have very similar frequencies.
You can see it depends on where you work, if you work in a work place that’s low in risk such as an office environment, you only have to Test and Tag your electrical items about every 5 years and you don’t even have to do it if they’re plugged into a safety switch. Whereas if you work in a construction work environment, it is mandatory to Test and Tag your electrical devices and they have to be done every 3 months.
Personal Protective Equipment
Personal protective equipment will be relevant for electrical workers but not really relevant for other types of electrical hazards.
- Consult with workers and determine electrical hazards.
- Ensure all devices are plugged into a circuit protected by a safety switch.
- Test and tag all devices or risk assessment requires.
- Use administrative controls such as procedures where required.