This informal CPD article Dangers of Electricity was provided by Horizon Engineering Solutions, established in 2015 to fill the gaps in the marketplace within Northern Ireland for the provision of specialist Electrical and Mechanical Engineering support services to major industrial clients.
Electricity is all around us and is part of everyday life.
Everybody has the potential to come into contact with electricity. These contacts can include:
- A child sticking things into the plug socket in their bedroom.
- An adult trying to clear a toaster with a metal knife without unplugging it.
- A person touching faulty electrical apparatus.
- A crane driver coming too close to or touching an overhead power line with the crane boom.
- A construction worker striking an underground power cable with a pickaxe.
- An electrician repairing a fault.
- An HV Authorised Person carrying out switching operations.
We are all human and if we come into contact with electricity, it has the potential to kill or injure us. It can also cause severe damage to property.
Each year the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) receives many accident reports where people have received an electrical shock or burns after coming into contact with electricity. In many cases these contacts result in death or the person receiving severe and often life changing injuries.
What are the dangers associated with electricity?
The Electricity at Work Regulations defines Danger as the Risk of Injury. The particular Dangers associated with electricity are:
- Electric Shock.
- Electric Burns.
- Fires of an Electrical Origin.
- Electric Arcing.
- Explosions initiated by or caused by Electricity.
What influences the severity and impact that a contact with electricity can have on the human body?
Due to the physiological make-up of the human body, it is not possible to precisely predict what the exact effects will be when electrical current passes through the body. There are many factors or combination of factors which influence the severity and impact the contact with electricity will have on a person.
These factors can include:
- The magnitude and duration the current flowed for until the protection system interrupted the fault.
- The effectiveness of the earthing system on the piece of electrical apparatus the person was unfortunately touching when the fault occurred.
- How good a contact the person had with the piece of faulty electrical apparatus and Earth. Wearing insulating footwear can greatly increase a person’s resistance to earth thus reducing the magnitude of the current which will flow through the body.
- For AC systems the Frequency and Voltage.
- How dry the person’s skin was. Dry skin has a much larger resistivity
- Where the current entered the body. Current which enters the body say through the knee and leaves through the foot will cause much less injury than current which enters the body through the left hand, travels up through the left arm, across the heart, through the major organs in the body, down through the legs and out through the feet.
- The person’s bodyweight. Larger persons have a greater body resistivity than smaller persons.
- The general health of the person. Did the person have any underlying health problems such as a heart condition or has a pacemaker.
However, the 230V domestic supply voltage provided to homes should be considered as being potentially fatally dangerous.
What will you feel if you come into contact with electricity?
Considering the previously described influences a person may experience a range of cumulative conditions in order of severity such as:
- A mild tingling sensation.
- Severe pain due to the heating effect of the current burning the skin and body tissues.
- Loss of muscular control which can cause a person to be frozen or locked onto the live conductor and be unable to let go even if they wanted to.
- Respiratory arrest i.e., you cannot breathe.
- Ventricular fibrillation, uneven and irregular beating of the heart.
Suggested measures to reduce the dangers associated with electricity
Some of the measures which should be considered are:
- Provide suitable up to date training, instruction, and information to ensure people who are not electrically competent but use electrical apparatus, electrically powered machinery or domestic appliances are aware of the dangers associated with electricity.
- Provide suitable up to date training, instruction, and information to ensure people who are not electrically competent but who are required to work near but not on electrical apparatus and systems are aware of the dangers associated with electricity.
- Provide suitable up to date training, instruction, and information to ensure people who work on electrical apparatus and systems do so in a safe and organized manner and are electrically Competent which should include: (1) Development of skills and experience. (2) Development of knowledge and understanding. (3) Monitoring, reviewing, and Auditing of competency levels and taking corrective action when necessary.
- Ensure Electrical Systems are safe which should include: (1) Correct installation and design in accordance with current Health and Safety Legislation, Industry Standards, Codes of Practice, and Company procedures. (2) Regular maintenance and inspection. (3) Regular monitoring of changes to the system. (4) Keeping of operating records and drawings.
- Ensure the provision of safe and suitable electrical apparatus which should include: (1) Selection of electrical apparatus which is suitable for the duty and the environment in which it is intended to work. (2) Installation, testing, and commissioning of all of new electrical apparatus in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions and system design requirements. (3) Maintenance, testing, and inspection of all electrical apparatus both fixed and portable to ensure that it remains in a safe condition.
- • Ensure that there are documented electrical safety procedures in place especially for the safe isolation of all electrical apparatus which complies with the definition of Isolation as set out in “Regulation 12 - Means for Cutting Off the Supply and for Isolation” of the Electricity at Work Regulation, i.e. “The disconnection and separation of electrical apparatus from every source of electrical energy in such a way that disconnection and separation is secure.”
We hope this article was helpful. For more information from Horizon Engineering Solutions, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.