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Electrical safety in construction

Posted on 30/10/2018 at 10:32 AM by in Blog

Are you aware of the full dangers of working around electrics?

Construction sites as a whole as safer than ever, with better resources for staff training available and new health and safety regulations to adhere to. But even with these advances in safety, there is still potential for things to go wrong.

Electrical work plays a big part in the construction industry, with construction sites using and being around electrical equipment almost 24/7. With so many hazards and risks to be aware of, you need to know how to work safely.

In the third part of our “Health & Safety In Construction” series, we’ve taken a look at electrical safety in the construction industry and how you can protect yourself.

To view Part 1 of this series, “Working At Height In Construction”, click here. To view Part 2 of this series, “Manual Handling In Construction”, click here. To view Part 4 of this series, “Harmful Substances In Construction”, click here. To view Part 5 of this series, “Controlling Noise In Construction”, click here. To view Part 6 of this series, “Physical & Mental Health In Construction”, click here.

The facts

Did you know that a voltage as low as 50 volts can leave you with life threatening injuries?

When working around electrical equipment, there is always the possibility that you could receive an electric shock. We’re used to receiving small electric shocks from TVs or balloons, but what’s worrying is the effects that an electrical current could have on our bodies, such as electrical burns, loss of muscle control and thermal burns.

Being on the receiving end of any of these when working with heavy machinery or at heights can lead to deadly consequences, so protecting yourself with the correct PPE and being aware of the risks is so important.

The HSE estimates that over 50% of fatal electrical accidents are caused by contact with overhead power lines. This is an alarming number considering we can visibly see the power lines, so in theory there should be no risk. Taking that number into account though, it’s clear that something needs to be done as far as training and awareness of these risks.

With the majority of roles on a construction site requiring you to operate electrical equipment at some point, you need to know how to do so safely.

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 requires all employees that work with any kind of electrical equipment to be fully trained and aware of how to operate the equipment, and can do so in a safe working environment.

Dangers & hazards

As we’ve seen, there are a range of different risks and dangers that come with electrical equipment, and one of the biggest areas of concerns is working around underground power cables.

Underground cables are buried underneath the surface and if the location isn’t known, can be struck during excavation. These cables can be damaged through penetration from sharp objects or being crushed by other equipment, but either way the consequences could be fatal.

Being able to locate these buried cables is absolutely essential for ensuring the wellbeing of on-site workers, and Cornerstone can offer a comprehensive utility search to identify any buried utilities and avoid any damage.

This video from the HSE depicts a very lucky person who managed to avoid fatal injuries after striking an underground cable.

Another large hazard area as we’ve previously seen by the statistics is contact with overhead power lines. More times than not, injuries from overhead power lines is down to workers being aware of the hazards or the space around them.

If work is to be carried out near overhead power lines, we recommend talking to the local electricity companies in regard to safely working around them and potentially turning them off whenever work is being done.

Risk assessments

Before any on-site work commences on a project, there needs to be a risk assessment carried out.

Identifying any potential risks, especially electrical ones, is so important to ensuring that a site is safe to be worked on. Being able to locate exactly where any potential hazards are will allow people to work safely around them, and prevent any damage to both workers and the surrounding area.

Risk assessments are imperative to securing the health and safety of workers on-site, and need to be done by law.

Utility searches should always be ordered as part of risk assessments, as knowing the location of any buried utilities is absolutely crucial to ensuring that no one strikes them and causes any damage. As we’ve previously mentioned, striking an underground cable will likely lead to a dangerous explosion and life threatening injuries to anyone around.

Damage to buried utilities will not only cause injury to workers, but will likely delay your project for a considerable amount of time, so getting a utility search is really important.

Protecting yourself

PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is absolutely essential for anyone working around electrical equipment in construction, and needs to be worn whenever handling any potentially dangerous equipment.

Goggles, insulating gloves, steel toe cap boots and safety helmets should be worn whenever electrical work is required. While PPE shouldn’t be used as the only safety measure, it’s important for protecting workers alongside sufficient training and safe working practices.

We highly recommend creating a safety checklist and incorporating this into your daily routine. You need to be 100% confident in the equipment that you are using, because it could literally be a matter of life and death.

Practices going forward

The health and safety of construction workers should never be taken lightly, especially in an industry that operates with and around potentially very dangerous equipment.

You should be encouraging workers to take matters into their own hands by checking their workspace and equipment themselves, making sure that they are 100% satisfied with their working environment before any work commences.

If you’d like to learn more about Cornerstone’s excellent utility search service, please get in touch today.

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