Workplace Electrical Safety

Written by RADI

Electrical safety should be treated as a priority in every workplace. Electricity is a powerful force which can seriously injure and in the worst cases, can be fatal.

There are several different areas to consider with electrical hazards in the workplace, each with different levels of risk that should be assessed accordingly.

Risks and hazards

The most common electrical hazards include:

  • contact with exposed live parts, such as leads or other electrical equipment, causing electric shock and burns
  • electrical faults which could cause fires or explosions

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Electrocution can fatally injure, depending on the severity of the shock endured. Electric shocks can also cause related incidents such as a person falling from scaffolding, or suffering injuries from running machinery.

It is important to note that a person does not need to be directly working with electricity in order to be in contact with electrical risk.

Electrical appliances

It is important that all electrical appliances are checked for faults regularly. Things to keep in mind when purchasing or using electrical appliances include:

  • Electrical appliances should always be used how they were designed to be used only
  • Ensure portable equipment has built-in safety switches
  • Never take a fixed cover off an electrical appliance while it is connected to electricity
  • When buying in electrical equipment from Australia or overseas, approved markings (CE, UL etc) mean the items are okay to use in ‘safe’ or ‘low risk’ environments like office and retail space as long as they are subject to a visual check beforehand. When they are used in an ‘unsafe’ environment or ‘high risk’ environment like a building site or factory floor, they must go through testing as well as visual checks.
  • Any item to be used in a high risk environment should be tested and labelled as safe in accordance with AS/NZS 3760 before it is used
  • Any faulty or damaged electrical equipment should be switched off and unplugged (if safe to do so). Report the problem and clearly mark the item as unsafe so colleagues do not attempt to use it.
  • Do not use any appliances that have been exposed to water or liquid. Turn off a wet appliance and unplug it (if safe to do so), report the issue and label it clearly as unsafe.

Powerboards and extension leads

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In order to manage risks associated with power boards and extension leads:

  • All power boards should have overload protection and integrated on/off switches
  • Power boards should be kept well ventilated, clean and above floor level where possible
  • Extension leads should not be a permanent solution for power distribution and should always be laid safely in order to prevent them becoming a trip hazard
  • Extension leads used should be high-quality and heavy-duty, particularly when used outdoors
  • Cords should be in good condition and checked for faults before use.

Powerpoints

Powerpoints must be a key point of consideration as they can easily become high risk.

  • Powerpoints should never be overcrowded and multi-plugs should be avoided where possible
  • Ensure that any appliance is unplugged rather than yanked out of the plug by the cord
  • When plugging in and unplugging appliances, make sure the plug switch is off
  • Report any damaged or suspect sockets, and label them as unsafe so colleagues do not use them
  • Plugs should be fully inserted into the socket
  • Plugs should be tested in full regularly
  • All sockets should have safety switches and be adequately labelled.

Lighting and heating

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Some things to keep in mind in regards to lighting and heating include:

  • Halogen lamps are high risk and should be replaced where possible with safer alternatives
  • If a fluorescent light is used and is enclosed, it must be ventilated to stop it overheating
  • Any exposed wires from lighting should be placed as safely as possible
  • If damaged lighting wires are discovered, the lights should be switched off and a qualified electrician should be called in to fix the problem
  • Offices should never be left unattended when heating appliances are on

Staff training

Staff should be trained on the correct ways to use electrical equipment involved in their job, as well as how to spot a fault and what to do in an emergency.

  • If a staff member needs to use low-risk electrical equipment as part of their job, they must be adequately trained on how to use the equipment, and how to visually check it for faults before use. They should also know what to do if they find a fault.
  • Ensure only qualified, registered engineers and electricians carry out any electrical work.
  • If a person will be working in a high-risk environment or using high-risk electrical equipment as part of their job, they must have extensive training to enable them to work safely and recognise potential risks, and they must be fully informed of the risks involved in working with equipment in an environment of this nature.
  • Those working with electrical equipment that is live need to be fully trained in CPR.

OHS Regulations NSW

Occupational Health and Safety – A legal requirement for all NSW businesses

Understanding and remaining compliant with NSW OHS standards is vital to ensure your workplace properly protects your employees from injury or death and protects your business from financial risk. The Occupational Health and Safety Act NSW 2000s provides the legislation all New South Wales workplaces are required to be compliant with to ensure a safe and healthy work environment for all employees and visitors.

This act states that all electrical installations at a workplace must be maintained by a competent person to ensure they remain safe for use. Any breaches of this act can leave your business facing serious litigation in court.

When do I need to test the electrical equipment at the workplace?

All electrical equipment at a worksite must be regularly tested by a trained and qualified person to ensure that it is safe for use. However, the required frequency for testing differs for different equipment and work environments.

For example, RCD testing should be performed every 3 months while portable appliances should be tested every 6 months.

More ‘hostile operating environments’ (“a place of work where an electrical article is in its normal use subjected to operating conditions that are likely to result in damage to the article”) such as workplaces of businesses operating in the construction industry are required to perform electrical equipment testing more frequently.

  • RCD testing should be performed once a month as they require an ‘operating time test’ (electrical trip)
  • Electrical appliances in these workplaces require testing every 3 months

The table below provides a more detailed overview of the guidelines for different work environments and equipment. Jim’s Test & Tag can also provide assistance in helping businesses identify how often they should be testing their electrical equipment.

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Jim’s Test & Tag is committed to helping NSW businesses provide a safe and healthy work environment for their employees and onsite visitors. We offer a range of services, including electrical risk assessment, electrical testing and tagging, RCD testing and emergency and exit lights, that are all delivered to help your business remain OHS compliant.