The other day, I switched on my old tile cutter and got a shock. When I inspected it, I found that the earth-screw was loose.

I got lucky because I was wearing rubber-soled shoes, but it could’ve been a lot worse.

From now on, I’m going to give all my tools a good look-over and a basic check before using them.

Electric Shocks Cause Injuries and Fatalities

Electric shocks are one of the most frequent causes of workplace injuries and fatalities. It doesn’t have to be that way – most of these incidents are preventable.

It’s not just the electricity itself that kills or injures. In some cases, it’s part of a chain of events that lead up to serious outcomes. For example, a worker getting a startling zap from their equipment could fall from a ladder or scaffolding. Faulty equipment could also cause a fire that puts everyone at risk.

Most electrical accidents occur because individuals:

  • Work on equipment without realizing it’s live
  • Work with live equipment without the proper training or knowledge of safety measures
  • Misuse the equipment
  • Use faulty equipment

What Should Workers Expect from Their Employers?

Employers, safety officers, and workers should take immediate action when they see or suspect any of the following:

  • Unsafe electrical installation and equipment
  • Improper or non-existent maintenance of electrical equipment or systems
  • Electrical equipment not being used in the safest way possible
  • Equipment that is not purpose-built (which might not be able to withstand wear or exposure to weather conditions)

Electrical Risk Assessment

Common electrical hazards include:

  • Exposed live parts (even normal main power can cause a fatal electric shock)
  • Flammable or explosive fumes that could be ignited by electrical equipment
  • Working with electrical equipment in wet conditions (unless using equipment designed for these types of environment)
  • Working in metal-lined confined spaces
  • Worn equipment, especially leads and extension cords

Where applicable, ensure that:

  • The correct fuses have been fitted
  • Cable ends are securely clamped so that wires cannot work loose
  • Split insulation is not simply covered with insulation tape – the cable should be replaced
  • Proper connectors are used when cables are joined (never simply splice or use connector blocks)
  • All plug connections are secure (unless the equipment has a molded, sealed plug)
  • Residual Current Device (RCD) test buttons are in working order (if an RCD trips off, don’t use it until it has been checked and repaired or until the manufacturer has been consulted)
  • Equipment does not have broken or damaged casing

Basic Safety Rules Every Employee Should Follow

  • Never use equipment you suspect might be faulty, worn, or damaged
  • Clearly label equipment that should not be used owing to a suspected fault
  • Disconnect power supply and, if possible, store the equipment until repairs have been done
  • Switch off equipment and power sockets before removing the plug from the power source
  • Switch off equipment before adjusting or cleaning it
  • Any equipment that can be switched off when not in use, should be switched off
  • Do not attempt to repair or otherwise alter electrical equipment – this should only be done by a qualified person