Electrical accidents are responsible for over 300,000 serious injuries per year in the United Kingdom. Surprisingly, outside of domestic accidents, electricians themselves account for the largest group to undergo electrical mishaps. Accidents arising from electric shocks are not only responsible for many serious injuries but also account for a number of fatalities each year.
In this article, there are tips and tricks that are used by professionals like Caztec. This will hopefully help to detail the best preventative methods to prevent you, your employees or loved ones, falling victim to a serious electric shock.
To work safely with electricity, you need to be familiar with basic electrical safety procedures and follow them vigilantly. Much of the information that follows may seem obvious to those in the know, but the fact remains that the vast majority of electrical deaths and accidents could have been easily avoided if only the victim would have followed such rudimentary advice.
Common causes of electrical accidentsThe majority of electrical accidents are caused by either:
- People working on or near equipment that is believed to be disconnected but is live
- People working on live equipment without suitable protective equipment.
Arc FlashesArc Flashes or 'Flashovers’ account for hundreds of serious injuries a year. In situations where Arc Flashes are a potential hazard, the correct thermal and insulated protective clothing must be worn. Such accidents can be prevented by putting electrical workers through simple safety training courses. You can even do this in-house at no cost.
The risk of electrical accidents can be minimised by following a few basic precautions.
◦ Risk assessment ~ performed prior to the commencement of any work
◦ Using suitable equipment designed for the work you are carrying out
◦ Ensure that there is adequate space and light to carry out the work safely
Dead or liveUnless absolutely necessary you should avoid working on live installations or equipment. If it is essential that you work live then it is important that you use the correct insulated tools and wear adequate protective clothing.
Additional adviceWork with a partner, especially if you are dealing with dangerously high voltages. An electric shock can cause your muscles to contract, making it impossible for you to free yourself from the current. A partner can save your life by cutting off the power, or by pushing you free with the aid of an insulating rod of some sort.
Lock & Tag
Lock and tag any electrical equipment that presents a risk to you or anyone else. Likewise, you should lock down access to the circuit breaker if it is an entire faulty circuit that needs repairing.
Where possible, when working around high voltages, work with a single hand. This acts as an additional safety measure against a potential lethal amount of electricity passing through the heart. Working with one hand could be the difference between mild injury and sudden death.
Verify your work
Check your work. Carefully inspect circuits and connections for loose wires, worn insulation, exposed wire ends that are too close to each other, and signs of overheating.
Direct contact with electricity is by far the most common cause of electrical accidents. But there does exist another type of shock which happens through indirect contact: static electricity.
Static electricity is a real and serious concern in many situations from domestic wiring to data processing centres. Static electricity not only poses a grave health risk but is also a risk to electrical equipment and can lead to fire.
In domestic situations earth bonding and grounding is used to eliminate static electricity inducing a voltage into metallic objects such as pipes and radiators. Bonding essentially negates the difference in electrical potential of two or more conductors. Bonding also prevents static sparks (arcing of electricity) between electrical conductors.
Electric shocks ~ What to do
If you suspect someone has suffered or is suffering from an electric shock you need to be very cautious. The last thing the situation needs is the one person who is able to help being electrocuted too!
Steps to take:
Separate the victim from the source of electricity. The most efficient way of doing this is by disconnecting the culprit appliance or cutting the supply off at its route, i.e. the fuse box. If this isn't possible then you'll need to physically disconnect the victim from the electricity using a length of insulated or non-conducting material.
NEVER panic and try to pull the person clear. This could result in you being electrocuted too.
After removing the person from the source of electricity
If the victim is not showing any signs of consciousness you must call an ambulance immediately. Only professionally trained and certified first-aiders should carry out any first aid on the victim.
If after shutting off the electricity the victim is conscious and seems stable, it is essential that you closely monitor their condition for any adverse signs that may appear following the shock.
Residual Current Devices (RCD) help protect from prolonged and dangerous electric shocks. By closing down the circuit within milliseconds of a short circuit or earth fault. For any outdoor electrical work (mowing, strimming, drilling, etc) it is strongly advised that your appliance is protected by an RCD.
Electrical dangers: The warning signs
The vast majority of electric shocks are preventable. If we know the warning signs to look out for we can eliminate most risks before they get to strike. Never ignore warning sign such as:
· Burning smells
· The sound of arcing (buzzing or crackling)
· Blown fuses or tripped RCDsElectrical accidents mostly arise through faulty or damaged electrical equipment. Failure to act when we spot the warning signs could potentially be catastrophic. It may sound like basic common sense, but it's surprising just how many electric shocks happen every year due to people overlooking such warning signs.
Check the condition of your plugs, sockets and cables
Damaged or poorly fitted plugs, loose sockets and damaged flexible cables are the cause of many electric shocks. Top eliminate this risk:
- Check all plugs and sockets to ensure they are properly fitted and are not showing any tell-tale signs such as burn marks or melting.
- Unplug appliances carefully. Pulling out a plug using the cable can loosen the wires and even result in electric shock.
- Replace any damaged cables immediately. Mark the appliance as unsafe to use if it's not possible top replace immediately