Understanding Risk Assessments in Electrical Safety at the Workplace
In the context of workplace safety, particularly concerning electrical hazards, understanding the concept of a risk assessment is pivotal.
A risk assessment is a systematic process of evaluating potential risks that could be involved in a work task or process.
It is essential to ensure that all electrical work is carried out safely, both protecting those carrying out the work and those who may be affected by it.
What are Risk Assessments in Electrical Safety?
A risk assessment involves identifying potential hazards, evaluating the risks associated with these hazards, and implementing measures to mitigate or eliminate the risks.
The aim is to ensure that no one gets hurt or becomes ill due to electrical work activities.
Who Should Carry Out Risk Assessments?
In the UK, under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, it is the employer’s duty to conduct risk assessments.
However, for electrical safety in the workplace, these assessments should be carried out by, or under the supervision of, someone competent in electrical safety – often a qualified electrician or an electrical engineer.
The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 stipulates the need for ‘competent persons’ to prevent danger and injury from electrical systems, meaning those undertaking risk assessments need to have the requisite knowledge, training, and experience.
The Competent Person
The term ‘competent person‘ is defined in the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989.
A competent person is someone with the necessary technical knowledge, skills, and experience to identify risks and take appropriate measures to control them.
This person is often required to have a deep understanding of electrical systems, the hazards they can present, and the statutory requirements.
Dynamic Risk Assessment
Dynamic risk assessment is a continuous process and is particularly useful in situations that are changing rapidly, such as during fault-finding or emergency work.
For instance, an electrician might use dynamic risk assessment when repairing a live electrical system.
They would continuously assess the situation, identify any new hazards as they arise, and adjust their working practices accordingly to manage the risk.
Written Risk Assessments
Written risk assessments are typically required for planned electrical work, especially when the work is complex or involves significant risks.
These might include:
- Installing new electrical systems.
- Major maintenance work on existing electrical systems.
- Work in environments with increased electrical danger, such as wet areas or confined spaces.
These assessments should outline the hazards, assess the risks, and detail the control measures.
They should be readily available to all who are involved in the work and reviewed regularly to ensure they remain relevant.
Examples of Risk Assessments in Electrical Safety
- Installation of New Equipment: Before installing new electrical equipment, a risk assessment would consider aspects like the potential for electric shock, the suitability of the existing electrical supply, and the risk of fire.
- Working Near Live Wires: If working near live wires is unavoidable, the risk assessment would need to identify control measures such as using insulated tools, wearing appropriate protective equipment, and ensuring that only competent persons carry out the work.
- Emergency Repairs: In emergency repair situations, a dynamic risk assessment approach is critical. The electrician would continually evaluate risks as they repair the fault, adjusting their approach based on the evolving situation.
Risk assessments in Electrical Safety are a fundamental part of electrical safety in the workplace.
They should be carried out by competent persons who have the necessary understanding of electrical systems and the potential hazards associated with them.
Both dynamic and written risk assessments have their place in managing electrical safety, and their appropriate use can significantly reduce the risk of accidents and injuries.
By adhering to these practices, workplaces can ensure that electrical work is conducted safely, in compliance with the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989.