Understanding the Electricity At Work Regulations 1989

According to Electrical Safety First, approximately 2.5 million people experience an electric shock every year, and around 350,000 people suffer a serious injury as a result of such a shock.

People who use electricity at work have a duty to do so in a manner that is safe, and that does not endanger either their own health or that of others.

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 were introduced to protect employers and their staff from preventable accidents.

Who does the law apply to?

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 should be observed by employers, employees and the self -employed. In addition, employees have a duty to follow the direction of their employers in order to maintain their own safety and anyone in the vicinity of their work. The regulations impose a legal duty on anyone working with electricity to do so in a manner that prevents harm or the risk of an accident at work.

What are the components of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989?

The regulations state that electrical equipment should be put together in the safest way possible, so as to prevent injury or death. People who are working with such equipment also have a responsibility to inspect it at regular intervals, in order to ascertain whether or not there are any faults. If faults are discovered in the equipment, they should be remedied as soon as is practically feasible.

When working with electrical equipment, the law states that protective equipment should be used when necessary. Employers have a duty to provide this for their staff, and the self-employed should also ensure that suitable protective equipment is used. In addition, any such equipment used should be used in the prescribed manner, as well as being checked for safety and suitability on a regular basis.

The Electricity at Work Regulations prescribe that electrical equipment should be fit for purpose. This means that it should be the correct equipment for the job at hand. Electrical items should also be suitably protected from environmental factors such as the weather, mechanical damage, rust or corrosion and flammable or explosive materials.

The law states that conductors of electricity should be insulated in order to prevent harm from occurring. As well as insulation, appropriate earthing should be applied to electrical appliances, and all connections within should be safe. Electrical equipment should also be constructed in a manner that prevents the current from reaching unsafe levels, thereby protecting anyone nearby.

The regulations require that all electrical items be made safe for those who are working in and around them, by means of an isolation function. This means that when fixing a piece of electrical equipment, for example, it is possible to cut off all sources of electricity during the work. Isolation protects the safety and well-being of everyone working in and around electrical tools or machinery.

If it is not possible to isolate the electricity supply while working on tools or machinery, a risk assessment should be conducted to determine that live working is vital for the task. If live working is deemed to be essential, appropriate protective equipment must be used by all workers involved in the task.

The Electricity at Work Regulations state that people who are working with electrical equipment should be doing so in an environment that is as safe as possible, and in which there is enough physical space and light.

The law regarding working with electricity prescribes that anyone doing so must have received appropriate training and gained suitable experience. If this is not feasible, adequate supervision must be provided for the duration of the work.