June 8, 2015

Electrical Safety in the Workplace

Working with electricity is a dangerous business. Electrical work takes place in all sectors of the economy, so there are many people working on or near electricity in their daily routines. But how dangerous is working with electricity? Let’s look at the last five years’ history of incidents recorded in Great Britain:


Safety-related incidents reported in Great Britain under the Electricity Safety, Quality and Continuity Regulations 2002 (ESQCR) 2009/2010 – 2013/14p
Incident type Year
2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13r 2013/14p
Fatal injuries   12   10   15   20   8
Serious (non-fatal) injuries   424   574   563   401   426
Other Events  5 419  9 231  12 140  10 619  11 254

(Source: HSE. r=revised, p=provisional)


These figures are shocking enough, but they are likely to be underestimates as they include only those incidents reported.


What are the main risks?

One of the main hazards of working with electricity is electric shock when a person comes into contact with equipment that is live. The injuries from the electric shock itself can be compounded by burn injuries.

Electrical arcing is a major risk in some situations and can result in a powerful arc flash causing a dangerous blast wave and subsequent fire. If there are flammable materials in the atmosphere or stored nearby, an explosion can occur.

A further risk is that following an electric shock, a person may suffer further injuries due to falls or the longer-term impacts of the shock itself.


What precautions need to be taken?

As always, health and safety risk assessment is the key. To focus on electrical safety in the workplace, your risk assessment should look at all circumstances where electricity is a factor, but particularly in work in wet or damp environments, outdoors and in cramped spaces. A properly carried out risk assessment gives you the crucial information you need to allow you to eliminate, reduce and protect against the risks.


For information on risk assessment and electrical safety, visit the relevant pages at the HSE.


Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence v2.0.


Image by Guido Gerding CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.