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Have you considered your health and safety obligations when it comes to electricity in the workplace?

by , 25 February 2013
Gautrain services between Pretoria and Johannesburg came to a halt last Wednesday when a machine used to dig trenches for a fibre cable, pulled an electrical power beam onto the train. That electricity hazard resulted in three injuries and a number of health and safety complications, reports IOL. While your company may not have the same electric hazards in your workplace, electricity is still a factor you need to consider as part of your health and safety obligations...

"Each year employers report many electric shock accidents to the Department of Labour and the Compensation Commissioner,' says occupational health and safety practitioner, Michele Bowmer in the Health and Safety Advisor.

One of the main reasons for this is that companies often don't think about electricity and electric hazards when compiling their health and safety documents.

There are four common electric hazards your employee's face in the workplace

According to Bowmer, in a normal office environment, electric hazards can occur from:

  1. Contact with live parts causing shock and burns (normal mains voltage, 230 volts AC can kill).
  2. Faults which could cause fires.
  3. Fire or explosion where electricity could be the source of ignition in a potentially flammable or explosive atmosphere, e.g. in a spray paint booth.
  4. No 'lock-out' procedures used when working on electrical installations or equipment.

Luckily, you can easily avoid electric shock accidents with careful planning and simple precautions.

How to avoid electric hazards from putting your employees' health and safety at risk

To protect your employees from electric hazards, you must ensure your building/business has a certificate of compliance (COC).

With this you'll know whether your current electrical installation was tested and that it complies with the electrical standards set out in the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Once you have this, perform a risk assessment of your office space – note any electrical hazards you've come across, such as faulty plugs, plugs without the 'earth' component, wiring issues and potential fire hazards from electrical appliances.

Then, fix these issues. Remember to use an accredited electrical company, registered with the Electrical Contracting Board of South Africa to fix any plug and wiring issues.

And don't forget, whenever you do any electrical alterations to your building's electrical installation, you'll need to get a new COC certificate of compliance issued.

Also ensure your company's health and safety code of conduct includes a clause stipulating that employees need to let you know if there's a problem with a plug or appliance that keeps tripping.

There you have it: It's that easy to protect your employees' from electrical hazards in the workplace.

Reduce your risk of working with electricity by checking out the Health and Safety Advisor. You'll also find a checklist to see if your employees are working safely and so much more!

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