Electricity can be extremely dangerous. In fact, a six-year study by the HSE found that around 6% of all fatal injury accidents in Great Britain were as a result of contact with electricity.
Working with electricity presents a number of risks in any environment but particularly on a construction site where any hazards could potentially be on a much larger scale.
Most accidents are a result of a lack of awareness, which is why it is essential that anyone who works on a construction site is aware of the risks and how they can avoid them.
With that said, we have put together this short guide surrounding electrical hazards on a construction site.
Common electrical safety hazards on construction sites
Each construction site will have it’s own unique hazards, so it is crucial that employees pay attention to the individual risk assessment conducted. However, there are a number of hazards that many construction sites have in common, including…
Electrical equipment and machinery
Construction workers will almost always have to use some sort of electrical equipment on site as part of their role. This could be anything from a hand-held tool to a large piece of machinery.
Those required to use electrical equipment must be provided with sufficient information and training on how to safely operate it, as part of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998.
Overhead power lines
With the HSE estimating that over 50% of fatal electrical accidents are caused by contact with overhead power lines, this is one of the key risks to look out for.
Most of these accidents are either due to a lack of awareness or an inadequate risk assessment. This highlights the importance of conducting a thorough risk assessment before starting work.
It is best to avoid working near overhead power lines altogether. However, if you must carry out work near overhead power lines, then it is crucial that you follow precautions. This could include consulting the local electricity company on how to safely proceed or even requesting that the power lines are switched off before work.
Underground power cables
Underground power cables are arguably more dangerous than overhead ones due to the fact they often aren’t visible. Additionally, it can be impossible to tell whether the cables are live when uncovered. With that said, extra care needs to be taken when carrying out digging operations on site, particularly if the site is near buildings or residential areas.
If digging operations are required, similar steps should be taken to deal with overhead power lines. Consult your local electricity company and council for up-to-date maps on buried services. Using this guidance, you should be able to create an adequate risk assessment.
Improper grounding and faulty wiring
Faulty wiring is a key electrical hazard on a construction site. This is particularly true when wiring is being installed in close proximity to flammable materials.
To minimise this risk, it is crucial that all wiring is installed and tested by a qualified electrician. Additionally, proper grounding procedures must be followed to prevent any electrical shocks.
How can electrical safety hazards be prevented on a construction site?
Before any person begins work on a construction site, there are a few key areas that must be considered…
By law, a risk assessment must be carried out before work on a construction site begins. In this risk assessment, the person in charge must identify all potential electrical hazards and ensure that suitable control measures are in place to prevent them from causing an accident.
Employees should be familiarised with the risk assessment before they start work so they have a strong understanding of the key electrical hazards on construction sites..
Electrical services maps
Before the risk assessment, the site operator should have requested an up-to-date map from the local council that details any potentially dangerous electrical hazards like cables and wires in the area of work.
Similarly to the risk assessment, employees should be given the opportunity to familiarise themselves with this map before starting any work.
Safe systems of work
If a person's role requires them to work directly or near to live electricity, then it is crucial that they are provided with the correct information and training to carry out their work safely.
The employer must set out a safe system of work (SSoW) that specifies the competence, skills, and knowledge required to safely perform these tasks.
Before beginning this job, it is essential that everyone involved is familiar with the SSoW document and have taken on board all the information and training provided.
Online Electrical Safety Training
Taking into account the information above, it’s clear to see that electrical safety isn’t only an issue for electricians.
Here at iHASCO, we offer an IOSH approved online Electrical Safety Training course that is designed for all levels of staff and offers practical advice and guidance for safety when working around electricity. Our Construction Training bundle contains Electrical Safety Training, as well as other essential courses such as Asbestos Awareness, PUWER & PPE Training. This ensures your construction workers have all the knowledge they need to stay safe on-site.
Claim a free, no-obligation trial to the course today!