Information
By Tze Li

In the UK during the last financial year, 137 people were killed in the workplace. In addition, 31.2 million working days were lost and 14.9 billion was lost due to injuries and ill health resulting from working conditions.

One of the key areas of office and workplace safety is around electrical items and the dangers these can pose. The hazards can range in size and scale, from electrical cords causing trip risk to full scale electrocution. If control measures are not put in place and regular checks not carried out, then you may be putting your employees at substantial risk.

Common electrical injuries

Office or workplace electrical injuries can take many forms but some of the most common are electric shocks. This is when voltage applied to the body causes electrical current to flow through the person. This blocks signals to the brain which can have a series of mild and severe consequences on the body. These can include muscle spasms, stopping of breathing and heart failure.

Similarly, electrical burns are caused when this current passing through the person causes muscle tissue to heat up. These burns are often very deep and difficult to treat. Although more usual at higher voltages, they can still happen at office level voltages. Other injury types include thermal burns and loss of muscle control.

Identifying the causes

Some of the most common types of electrical injuries in the workplace are caused by:

  • Equipment that is poorly installed or maintained
  • Dangerous wiring
  • Overloaded or overheated outlets
  • Accidental use of live equipment
  • Incorrect fuse use
  • Use of electrical equipment near water
All the above risks and plenty more are entirely preventable if the right safety measures are put in place. With that in mind, there are five key things you can do to make your office and workplace safe for everyone.

Install and maintain safe appliances

Under the Electricity at Work Regulations Act (1989) it is the employer's responsibility to make sure that all equipment is fit for purpose and does not pose any danger to staff or the public. This includes making sure that all electrical equipment is safe for use in its intended purpose. All equipment should have been subject to the required checks before being brought into the office or workplace. Similarly, any equipment that you use should be installed and maintained by a qualified engineer. Any faults that are discovered should be reported immediately.

Additionally, to check the ongoing safety of office electricals, many companies will conduct yearly inspections such as PAT Testing. In using testing equipment such as Fluke testers, these inspections can help identify any faults in electrical equipment that may be a risk to employees.

Employee training and awareness

Many electrical injuries and accidents are caused by a lack of knowledge or training around certain areas. Staff should be trained to spot the signs of electrical danger, such as frayed electrical cables, odours that signify electrical danger, overloaded power outlets and more. With the right training, they will be able to spot the signs of faulty equipment, and good reporting practice should help to prevent accidents.

Clearance

Modern offices and workplaces need electricity to function. Almost every aspect of business depends on it. And this electrical current has to come into the building and be arranged somewhere. These places should be safely out of the way and behind closed doors. It is also a good idea to maintain a safe clearance zone of at least one metre from any electrical panels.

Deal with cords

These are one of the main causes of electrical injury in the office for a number of reasons. Not only do they get frayed and expose live wires, but they are also trip hazards. Cords get snagged or tugged, pulling electrical items off work tops, further increasing the risks.

All electrical cables should ideally be well positioned to limit risk. Avoid having cables in high traffic areas where they can be damaged. Keep them clear of heat sources or water and use cable ties to keep cables neatly stowed. Any faulty or damaged cables should be removed or replaced immediately.

Turn off the power

Another major cause of accidents is people not realising equipment is live. Make it common practice to turn off equipment when not in use, shut down electrical equipment and take out the plugs when closing down the office each night. In addition, all appliances should be turned off before cleaning.

Not only will following these tips for electrical safety reduce the risk of accidents and injury to you, your staff and customers but it is also good for business. Reducing the numbers of accidents and sick days taken from avoidable injuries will help to minimise the economic impact. Keeping your staff safe in the workplace really is good for business, in every sense of the term.