Electricity at work - health and safety

Electricity is a major hazard as not only can it cause direct injury through shocks, it also can be the source of indirect injury through causing explosions etc. Consequently it poses a major health and safety risk for anyone involved with electricity during the course of their employment.

Electricity at Work Regulations 1989

The aim of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 is to prevent death or personal injury to any person from electrical causes in connection with work activities.

The following people are subject to the regulations:

  • employers and the self employed;
  • employees.

Every employer, self-employed person and employee has a duty to comply with these regulations in so far as they relate to matters within their control. Employees must also co-operate with their employer as much as is necessary to enable any duty placed on the employer by the regulations to be complied with.

Electrical equipment under the regulations includes anything used, intended to be used or installed for use, to generate, provide, transmit, transform, rectify, convert, conduct, distribute, control, store, measure or use electrical energy.

General duties

Part II of the Electricity at Work Regulations (regs 4 – 16) places general duties on those individuals who the regulations apply to in relation to the following matters:

  • general safety of electrical systems;
  • strength and capability of electrical equipment;
  • adverse or hazardous environments;
  • insulation, protection and placing of conductors;
  • earthing or suitable precautions;
  • integrity of referenced conductors;
  • connections;
  • means for protecting from excess current;
  • means for cutting off the supply and for isolation;
  • precautions for work on equipment made dead;
  • work on or near live conductors;
  • working space access and lighting;
  • competent people.

General safety of electrical systems

Regulation 4 requires that all electrical systems, so far as is reasonably practicable, be of safe construction and maintained in that state to prevent danger.

Work carried out on or near a system, including both the operation of the system and the maintenance of the system, shall be carried out in such a manner as not to give rise, so far is reasonably practicable to danger.

Any equipment which is provided to protect those at work on or near electrical equipment shall be suitable for this purpose and maintained in a condition to ensure it is properly used.

Strength and capability of electrical equipment

Under reg 5, no electrical equipment shall be put into use where its strength and capability may be exceeded in such a way as may give rise to danger.

Adverse or hazardous environments

Regulation 6 states that electrical equipment that may reasonably be foreseeable to be exposed to the following dangers must be constructed in such a way to protect or prevent so far as is reasonably practicable danger arising from such exposure:

  • mechanical danger;
  • the effects of weather, natural hazards, temperatures or pressure;
  • the effects or wet, dirty, dusty or corrosive conditions;
  • any flammable or explosive substance including dusts, vapours or gases.

Insulation, protection and placing of conductors

Regulation 7 requires that all conductors in a system that may give rise to danger shall either:

  • be suitably covered with insulating material;
  • have such precautions taken in respect of them as will prevent danger so far is reasonably practicable.

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For more information on:

  • Earthing, integrity and connections
  • Isolation and cutting of supply
  • Precautions for work on equipment made dead
  • Work on or near live conductors
  • Access, space and light
  • Competent persons
  • Defence
  • Exemption certificates