The Basics of Electrical Safety
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Electricity is perhaps one of the most important discoveries and is very much the lifeblood of modern society. It is probably fair to say that society is very much reliant on electricity for just about everything from lighting to cooking, to transport and entertainment. There isn’t a lot that can happen without it, but, electricity is dangerous, between 2001 and 2017 over 345 people were killed due to electrocution in the UK and there are over 20,000 home fires caused by electrical products every year which cause 46 deaths and 2,469 injuries. It is clear, then that, although electricity is a vital tool, it needs to be treated with respect and electrical safety is very important
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What are the basics of electrical safety?
Electrical safety is important both at home and at work and in this article, we will take a look at the basics of electrical safety for both environments.
Electrical safety at home
Perhaps the biggest and best piece of advice that can be given, is to have your home electrics checked regularly by a competent electrician.
For a relatively low cost, a competent electrician will inspect the electrics in your home and either give them a clean bill of health or give advice on what improvements are required. Regular inspections will help identify any potentially dangerous faults with the electrics. In the private rented sector this is a legal requirement that is required every 5 years and is called an electrical installation condition report. The same is true of the electrical inspection of your domestic burglar alarm, security lighting and CCTV systems, which we recommend is done annually.
The second good piece of advice we can impart is to have a qualified and competent electrician carry out any electrical work on your property. Under Part P of the building regulations this is a requirement for defined electrical work, but we would suggest that any electrical work is carried out by a professional. Over rating a fuse to the wire size and installing wires that are too small for the duty are all major contributors to electrical fires.
Never overload sockets or extension leads especially if you are trying to plug items in with a large electrical load such as kettles, irons and electric heaters. Also check the fuse in the extension lead plug and the extension lead’s rating. Although most are 13A some are less and even normal use might cause them to be overloaded. There is a great overload calculator on the Electrical safety first website.
Carry out regular visual checks of all your electrical appliances, specifically the cable, the plug and the connection to the appliance itself. Cable damage, plug damage and loose wiring can cause a fire.
The same goes for sockets and switches. Are there any signs of sparking when they are used? Are any of them scorched? Does the socket or switch buzz or hum or seem intermittent? Does the USB charger socket in your wall socket buzz or hum? All of these suggest an issue which needs addressing.
Ensure all your electrics are protected using RCD protective devices. An RCD (residual current device) detects faults and automatically switches off the electric. These can be found in extension cords as well as your fuse box. An MCB (Miniature Circuit Breaker) is a device designed to protect an electric circuit from over-current – a term to describe an electrical fault caused by either overloador short circuit. These are found in your fuse box (see image).
Remember, water and electrics do not mix well! Never use electrical appliances that are not designed to be waterproof in the bathroom or in humid areas.
Electrical safety at work
In the workplace electrical safety is governed by the Electricity at work Regulations 1989 and this covers everything from design of electrical systems to work with electrical systems and then maintenance and inspection of electrical systems. Some simple precautions that can be taken to ensure basic electrical safety are:
- Only install electrical equipment that is suitable for the area it is being used in. For example, if the area is wet then the equipment needs to be protected against water ingress.
- Only competent and qualified people should be allowed to work on electrical equipment and even then, under a suitable permitting system.
- All isolators and fuse boards should be kept closed and locked at all times to prevent unauthorised access.
- When designing electrical equipment, engineers should always ensure that the power supply is adequate, that all fuses and cables are properly sized and that the equipment is suitable for the supply.
- As for homes, all electrical installations should be regularly inspected by a competent, qualified person.
- Anyone using a piece of electrical equipment should be fully trained in its use and there should be basic visual inspections to ensure the equipment is in good condition.
- Company’s should take care when carrying out excavation work to ensure no underground electrical cables are damaged and equally should ensure that any overhead cables are properly identified and work under them adequately controlled.
- Portable appliances should also be registered and regularly tested.
- All companies are legally required to carry out risk assessments related to working with or on electrical equipment.
Learning more about the basics of electrical safety
Electricity is vital in the modern world, but it is also dangerous and needs to be treated with respect. At Chris Garland training we run an IIRSM Approved Electrical Safety E-learning course covers a basic overview of the types of electricity in the UK, the current UK legislation around the use of electricity, accident statistics, how to deal with electricity and what to do with someone who has been exposed to an electric shock. We offer a wide range of health and safety training courses covering everything from food safety to first aid to fire safety and many more. Why not contact us to discuss any health and safety training that you might have and we will see how we can help.