A short sharp shock or an abrupt end? We all know how electricity works, or do we?
Basic Electrical Safety in the Workplace
We know that we plug things in and they work, or we flip a switch and the lights come on, and we certainly know that it’s not free! We are at the same time very familiar with electricity and slightly mystified by how it works. We know that it comes from power plants that either burn coal, catch wind, or harness nuclear reactions. From there, we know it travels to our homes through big cables hung high up, or buried underground. Once it reaches our homes, electricity travels through much smaller cables in our walls to sockets where we then plug in the myriad of devices we use on a daily basis. The electricity in our homes can be measured in three ways:
Voltage measures the force, or pressure of electricity.
Amps measure the amount of electricity used
This is the measure of the amount of work that is being done by the electricity per second. The wattage is worked out by multiplying the amps by the volts.
An easy way to explain it is this; Electricity flowing through a wire is like water flowing through a garden hose. The amount of water that can fit through the hose depends on the diameter of the hose (amps). The pressure of the water depends on how far open the tap is (volts). The amount of work that can be done (watts) depends on both the amount and the pressure of the water (volts x amps = watts).
With electricity being such an integral part of our daily lives, it makes sense to make sure we use it safely, and this requires at least a basic understanding of how it works and behaves.
All things will take the path of least resistance, air, water, not to mention people! Electricity is no exception, and will always travel faster down an easily reachable, and easily travelable path. If you are the tallest thing in a lightning storm, for example, the fastest path of least resistance is you! It’s also handy to know which materials allow electricity to pass through them (conductors) and those that don’t (insulators) especially when it comes to electrical safety, both at home and in the workplace.
Conductors of electricity
Copper, Aluminium, Platinum, Gold, Silver, Water
People and animals
Insulators of electricity
Glass, Porcelain, Plastic, Rubber
Basic Electrical Safety in the Workplace
Electrical safety is never more important than in the workplace. Each year about 1000 accidents involving electric shocks or burns are reported the health and safety executive (HSE). Of these around 30 are fatal, usually involving overhead or underground power cables. Those most at risk are maintenance workers, those working with electrical plant, equipment and machinery, and those working construction sites. Here are 5 top hazards to be aware of in the workplace.
Failure to notice overhead and underground power cables.
Underground and overhead power cables are typically not insulated, therefore any contact with tools etcetera will result in severe injury. All buried and overhead power cables should be identified and marked.
Anyone whose duties include any use and or maintenance of any electrical tools, machinery or lighting are at risk of electrocution. Proper training and information are imperative.
Lack of warning signs
Warning signs, tags, symbols and barriers are all very effective ways of alerting all employees to potential electrical hazards, especially effective if any employees are not English speaking.
Improper procedure and Identification of hazards
Contact with live electrical current is the #1 cause of electrical death and injury. Power should always be turned off, and proper procedures implemented and enforced.
Faulty and improper use of equipment
Damaged, aged, or equipment that has been modified in any way should be always be discarded and replaced, as should any equipment with frayed extension or tool cord and definitely anything with exposed wires. With the correct safeguards and proper procedures in place, working with and around electricity should be much safer for all, and accidents and injury kept to a minimum.
Stay safe until next time