As you and your employees carry out your work many construction jobs will involve the use of portable power tools and you may not always give much thought about the hazards electricity can pose. That is why it is so important to take the proper safety precautions at all times to avoid on-site accidents.
Should one of your employers suffer an injury through an electric shock, they may hold you responsible for being in breach of your duty of care as an employer by providing inadequate Health and Safety precautions. Such incidents are not only extremely bad for staff morale and public relations, they can also lead to costly Employers Liability claims under your Construction Insurance policy.
What Are The Causes of Shocks?
Electricity travels in closed circuits, normally through a conductor. However, the human body also acts as an extremely efficient conductor of electricity. Should it come into contact with an electric current, the body can effectively become part of the electric circuit. Shocks occur when a person’s body completes the current path with:
- Both wires of an electric circuit
- One wire of an energised circuit and the ground
- A metal part that accidentally becomes energised (such as a break in its insulation)
- Another “conductor” that is carrying a current.
When a person receives a shock, electricity flows between parts of the body or through the body to the ground, which, at its worst, can cause fatal injuries.
Regular Inspection of Tools is Vital
A documented and regular inspection programme for all of your tools is vital in terms of protecting your employees and reducing the risk of injury.
One of the most common workplace incidents is “accidental earthing”; the good news is that this is also easily preventable. One way to avoid this is by always examining your tools for these conditions:
- Defective or broken insulation
- Improper or poorly made connections to terminals
- Broken or otherwise defective plugs
- Loose or broken switches
- Sparking brushes
If any of these conditions exist, make sure that the tool is taken out of use, repaired and tested before being passed back to employees.
Additional Best Practice Health and Safety Rules
- Never attempt to repair or adjust portable electric tools while they are plugged in.
- Do not use portable electric tools in the presence of flammable vapour or gases, unless they are specifically designed for such use.
- Always use the required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the job, even if it may seem unnecessary.
- Maintain and test tools on a regular basis.
- When using a tool to handle energised conductors, check to make sure that it is designed to withstand the voltage and stresses to which it has been exposed.
- Ensure that electrical tools are equipped with a three-prong plug - earthing the unit itself is the best way to guard against shock.
What To Do If Someone Suffers a Shock
If you, or one of your employees, does receive a shock, it is important to seek immediate and urgent medical attention. Even if the victim does not exhibit signs of stress or injury, internal injuries may have resulted from the shock and even low voltage shocks can actually be fatal.
Knowing how to work safely with portable electric tools can save lives and avoid significant losses under your Public and Employers Liability Insurance. Developing an appropriate Health and Safety programme and checking all equipment prior to use will help to remove the chances of site accidents.
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