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Health and Safety Services

Electrical safety in the workplace

Because electricity has become so widely used and available we tend to forget how dangerous it can be. Every year there are numerous reports to the Health and Safety Executive of accidents involving electric shock or burns sometimes resulting in fatality. The main causes of injury are:

  • the use of poorly maintained electrical equipment;
  • work near overhead power lines;
  • contact with underground power cables
  • contact with live parts causing shock or burn, normal mains voltage of 230V can kill;
  • use of unsuitable electrical equipment in potentially flammable or explosive atmospheres; and
  • fires started by poor electrical installations and faulty electrical appliances.

Key to maintaining safety are the checks undertaken by the user before connecting an appliance to the mains electrical supply. The user should:

  • Consider if there is a fault in the equipment and whether it works properly.
  • Check that the equipment has a legible electrical test label attached to it.
  • Inspect the cable and the plug.(see below)
  • Take action if any faults or damage are apparent. If the equipment is faulty, switch off the mains supply and unplug from the socket. Label it as not to be used and remove it from service. Report the fault to the Estates and Facilities Team,

Typical things to look for are:

Damaged cables which can expose live wires.

No cable grip on the plug. This allows for damage to the cable and can result in arcing and can cause a fire.

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Health & Safety Services, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX. Tel: 020 7631 6218, email: