Electricity is something that we all use in our daily lives but, if used incorrectly, it can cause death, serious injury and major damage to property. For this reason, it is essential that everyone who regularly works with electrical systems and equipment understands how to do so safely.
In this article, we will explore the Electricity at Work Regulations in detail, and outline what several of its regulations require of employers and employees.
The Electricity at Work Regulations are a set of regulations that came into force in 1990. They are designed to protect people from being harmed while using or working near electrical equipment, systems and conductors.
This regulation sets out some of the key definitions used within the rest of the regulations:
Regulation 3 sets out the responsibilities that employers and employees have under these regulations.
Specifically, it requires every employer and self-employed person to comply with the Electricity at Work Regulations, and every employee to work safely and co-operate with their employer to help them abide by these regulations.
This regulation requires that all electrical systems are constructed, maintained and used in such a way as to prevent danger, so far as is reasonably practicable.
It also requires that any electrical equipment used is suitable for the task it is being used for, maintained appropriately, and used correctly to prevent any electrical hazards from arising.
This regulation prevents all electrical equipment from being used in a way that may result in its strength and capability being exceeded. For example, using a voltage that is too high may cause a piece of equipment to heat up and cause burns.
Regulation 6 requires that any electrical equipment used in adverse or hazardous environments is constructed or protected in such a way as to prevent danger. Some examples of adverse or hazardous environments include those in which the equipment is likely to be exposed to:
This regulation requires precautions to be taken to prevent any conductors from giving rise to danger. This will usually involve covering them with some form of insulating material, but also may involve placing them away from people. For example, overhead power lines are placed high to significantly reduce the risk of someone coming into contact with them.
Regulation 8 requires that suitable precautions are taken to prevent danger arising when the conductors in a system become charged, either during operation or due to a fault. The precautions taken as a result of this regulation may include:
This regulation requires that any connections and joints in a system are 'mechanically and electrically suitable for use'. This is especially important for portable electrical equipment, which is more likely to experience damage to its plugs, sockets and flexible cables than fixed equipment.
Regulation 11 requires an electrical system to have some way of managing excess currents, typically caused by short circuits or overloads, without causing danger. This is usually done using some form of fuse or circuit breaker that can interrupt the current before it becomes dangerous.
All electrical equipment must be accompanied by something that can be used to cut off its electrical supply, and isolate it. In this context, isolate means that the equipment is disconnected and separated from the electrical supply in a way that ensures it cannot be accidentally reconnected.
This requires precautions to be taken to prevent any electrical equipment that has been disconnected from an electrical supply to prevent danger from becoming electrically charged. This is especially important to protect those that are working on, or near, potentially damaged equipment.
There are several precautions that can be taken to ensure this, including:
This regulation prevents people from working with or near live conductors, unless there is no way that the conductors can be made dead and the work must be carried out near the conductors. If this is the case, suitable precautions, such as providing personal protective equipment (PPE), must be taken to prevent injury.
Some questions to consider to assess whether work must be carried out near live conductors include:
Regulation 15 requires that all work involving electrical equipment is carried out in a place where there is adequate working space, means of access and lighting to prevent injury.
This requires anyone carrying out a work activity involving electrical equipment or systems to have the required technical knowledge or experience to do so safely, or be supervised by someone who does.
At Commodious, we offer an electrical safety training course that explores how to use electrical equipment safely. IT also covers the requirements of the Electricity At Work Regulations 1989 and other relevant health and safety guidance, such as HSG107 and HSG85. To find out more about this course, use the link below: