Short guide on working safely with and around electricity especially on construction sites

Via the esc.org.uk we found this very helpful article regarding the Electrical Safety in the construction industry, which gives us some helpful tips on how to maintain the safety while working with and around electricity on the construction sites. We have previously talked about the Part P of the Building Regulations(reducing the risk of electric shock in homes), some simple rules for electrical safety in the homes, and how to avoid the potential hazards in homes. This article mainly focuses on the Electrical Safety on Construction sites.

The Health and Safety Executive(HSE) and other organisations are concerned that many of the construction workers do not work safely with and around electricity on the construction sites. Not following safe working procedures can cause death, serious injuries and accidents to the construction workers each year – yet these accidents can be easily avoided by obeying some general rules regarding the work with and around electricity.

Simple rules for Electrical Safety – Electrical Contractors

Experience shows us that electricians are particularly at risk of death or serious injury from electric shock or burns if they fail to follow safe working procedures. It is therefore important to comply with all the health and safety laws, in particular the ones to do with working safely. The existing organisations in the construction industry are trying to raise the awareness of the main safety messages for electrical contractors.

The Electrical Contractors should not allow dangerous work practices, such as working with live electricity or switching electricity on before they have furnished their work and everything has been installed correctly. It is never absolutely safe for someone to work on or near live electrical equipment. But sometimes the electrical contractors agree to switch the electricity on before they have finished their work, to make the jobs of designers, commissioning engineers, clients, main contractors or people in the finishing trades easier. By doing this, except in some very specific circumstances where they have taken steps to prevent themselves and others from getting injured, they are breaking the law.

Main Contractors and Subcontractors

The Main Contractors and their non-electrical subcontractors should be aware that they also have legal responsibilities under the Electricity at Work Regulations(made under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974), in particular Regulation 14. Regulation 14 requires that no work is done on or near live circuits where there is a risk of touching live conductors, unless

  • the work cannot be done if the electricity is switched off, and
  • it is reasonable to work on or near the live conductors, and
  • suitable steps have been taken to prevent the person doing the work and others from getting injured.

All workers, supervisors and managers on the construction sites should be mare aware that, in law, it is not considered reasonable to work on or near live conductors solely on the grounds of convenience, or of saving time or cost. Electrical contractors should not switch on the electricity before they have finished their work unless:

  • they have a written request from the main contractor or the main contractor’s agent, and
  • the circuits have been fully inspected, tested and are safe to use, and
  • the electrical contractor agrees it is safe to do so.

When the electricity is switched on following the above process, the main contractor is legally responsible for making sure that everyone on site is aware of any live circuits in an area. They are also responsible for making sure that their electrical subcontractors use safe isolation procedures before working on any circuits that could possibly be live. The electrical subcontractor has the same duty and responsibility to use safe isolation practices when required.

More Information on Electrical Safety at Work

You can download this guide from online in English or Polish as a PDF file. Organisations in the electrical industry and the HSE have worked together and written a guide called “Guidance on Safe Isolation Procedures” – you can get a copy of this guide from the Electrical Contractors’ Association(ECA), NICEIC, or SELECT. The guide fully explains what needs to be done to make sure workers on the site are working safely when working on or near live electrical systems in buildings – particularly in the final stages of construction. And this can be the subject of our next article on the Electrical Safety at Work.

One comment

  1. Changes in law have clearly made a considerable difference to safety in construction. Also, some organisations have changed their ethos, which has also improved things, although it seems to be mostly the larger organisations with the most to gain (or lose). I think that we need to drive a cultural change in which all workers find it unacceptable to have their lives and well-being put in danger.

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