Safety Basics for Working Near Electricity

- - Safety

It’s not necessary to be an electrically competent person to work near electricity. Construction workers, plumbers, plasterers, mechanics and manufacturers are all exposed to electricity and electrical wiring as part of their daily routines. If you’re a business owner, you’ll be aware of the importance of carrying out a risk assessment before you allow your employees to carry out a new project or task. More details on conducting a thorough risk assessment are available from the Health and Safety Executive’s website.

Correct Signage

If there are signs warning of electrical danger, it’s very important that these are taken seriously. It’s not necessary to touch a high voltage cable to get an electric shock. Low voltage cables can also be dangerous. In some cases, signage may not be easy to see or may have been removed, so don’t assume there are no cables nearby.

Electrical Wiring

Electrical wires, like the correct signage, are not always readily apparent. Don’t assume that electrical wires are not present, just because you can’t see them. Before you begin drilling or cutting into any surface, look carefully for electrical wires and ask to see plans of electrical installation. You should be wary of disturbing other hazards, including asbestos. It’s important to check for nearby electrical installations or equipment and find out where the wiring for these is hidden. Electrically competent persons can use a cable detector, but otherwise you should familiarize yourself with the common colours attributed to different wires. Remember that these standards were officially altered in 2004. Fibreglass trench, duct and gully covers are often used to allow ease of access to electrical cables and wiring when it is contained underground. If you work in the construction industry, covers like Dura Slab are definitely worth considering for added electrical safety and convenient maintenance.

Power = Off

Before attempting any kind of maintenance work, the electrical power must be off. If you’re not sure, ask an electrically competent person to check for you. They should make sure that the device being used is suitable for isolation, the isolator being used to turn off the power is working reliably and the switch being used is the only way the circuit can be given electrical power. The switch should also be locked in the off position, and it should not be easy to trip the switch back on again. Taking these precautions can save lives, as live circuits and unreliable voltage readings can lead to serious injuries and death. Make sure you know whether the electrical system or equipment you’re working near needs to be earthed. If it does, this must also be done using a careful and reliable method.


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