Workplaces are filled with invisible risks, particularly when it comes to electrical work and powered equipment. Electric shocks can occur in any business, causing serious injury and even death. While businesses may feel immune to electrical danger, the hazards are far more real than they appear.
Over the past four years, more than 2000 people have received electric shocks in NSW workplaces, leaving six workers permanently disabled, and five dead. To prevent serious harm in the workplace, there are plenty of precautions that can be undertaken by electrically-conscious businesses to create a safe working environment.
Operating conditions that expose equipment to rust and decay are high-risk. Moist, wet or hot environments breed poor conditions for machinery and other powered equipment, particularly if storage environments aren’t thoroughly cleaned. Keeping equipment in clean, dry areas is your best bet to minimise this risk, as is avoiding exposure to chemicals and excessive dust.
Frequent maintenance of equipment enables a business to catalogue and track any notable changes to performance and identify potential electrical hazards. Dangers can be reduced through legally-compliant tagging and general observation of all equipment. Maintaining an inventory of safety equipment, such as leather gloves and protective glasses, will ensure workers always have access to necessary safety gear.
Residual Current Devices (RCD) are safety switches designed to shut down unintended electrical circuits such as those created by a hand touching a live wire, significantly reducing the risk of electric shock and electrical fires. By consistently monitoring electrical currents, the switches offer vigilant detection of potential equipment malfunctions, minimising safety risks.
Stack plugging should be avoided entirely whenever possible. When using extension cables and adaptors, only use one per socket. Using multiple extension cords in a single plug can cause the power point to overload or catch fire. It’s important to follow recommended safety procedures to minimise risk and prevent serious electrical damage.
A lack of knowledge is a common cause of electrical accidents so, as a manager, it’s your job to provide educational tools that make it easy for staff to learn and understand best practices as well as the consequences of non-compliance.
It’s important to reinforce safety procedures to young employees. While they often understand the risks involved, the consequences are quickly forgotten if they take a “she’ll be right” approach. Reinforce the real consequences of an accident with real stories and examples to show them they’re not invincible when it comes to electrical dangers.
The most important part of implementing safety procedures is ensuring both compliance and knowledge. In setting out any plan of action, take steps to inform all staff of any changes to expectations and safety procedures. These steps should be easily actionable and accessible. Safety at work needs to be a unified effort to be effective so that everyone in the business can get on board.
By implementing and reinforcing new safety procedures, businesses can not only increase productivity, but work to prevent electrical accidents that cause serious injury, psychological harm, equipment damage or, in the worst-case scenario, death.
Kelly Lovely, Health and Safety Consultant, AGL Energy