Electrical Safety

We all use electricity pretty much every day. An electric shock can cause serious injury or death. Shock happens when electricity goes to ground through your body. Physical contact with energised wiring or devices is the most common cause of an electric shock

An electric shock is the tingling sensation or muscular contraction that a person experiences when some electrical current passes through the body. An electric shock can severely burn or kill if the muscle contraction is severe enough to stop the heart. This muscle contraction will in many cases cause the victim to remain firmly gripped to the source of electrocution, particularly where power tools or leads are being used

It's not just the electricity itself that kills or injures. In some cases, it's part of a chain of events that has serious consequences. Workers getting a startling zap from their equipment could, for instance, fall from a ladder or scaffolding. Faulty equipment can also cause a fire that puts everyone at risk.

What happened?

A guy was working outside on an overcast day. He rolled out his extension lead and plugged in his drill. A light shower of rain fell. It only lasted a couple of minutes, so the worker continued to do his job.  Unbeknown to him, the lead and plug connection that was previously on dry ground was now lying in a shallow puddle of water.  He picked up the drill and pulled the trigger and zap.  He was electrocuted and died.


How could this incident have been avoided?


Electrical Risk Assessment

The following are common electrical hazards:

  • Exposed live parts – even normal main power can cause a fatal electric shock.
  • Fires could be caused by an electrical fault
  • Flammable or explosive fumes that could be ignited by electrical equipment
  • Work with electrical equipment in wet conditions (unless using equipment designed for moist conditions)
  • Work in metal-lined confined spaces
  • Work on metal roofs or decks
  • Worn equipment, especially leads and extension cords
  • Exposed light-bulbs
  • Irregular maintenance and repair
  • Failure to inspect before use

Safety Tips

  • Always use power tools with a Residual Current device or RCD. These are also known as:
    • residual-current circuit breaker (RCCB)
    • ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)
    • ground fault interrupter (GFI)
    • appliance leakage current interrupter (ALCI)
    • Safety Switch
  • Perform a visual inspection of all power tools and leads before use
  • Inspect, test and tag
    • Regular inspecting and testing of electrical equipment can save lives
    • You can detect many electrical defects such as damaged cords just by examining them, but regular inspection and testing will make sure you detect electrical faults and deterioration you can't see. 
  • Never use damaged equipment
  • Remove cords from service if they have exposed wires or have been run over by heavy machinery (e.g. A scissor lift)
  • Taping cords with electrician's tape is not a substitute for proper repairs
  • Unplug tool before working on it
  • Lock out or tag out electrical tools that are faulty
  • Never modify or alter power tools
  • Switch off equipment and power sockets before removing the plug from the power source
  • Switch off tools and equipment before adjusting or cleaning it

Download this Toolbox talk to print and use as a topic for your next toolbox meeting