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How to protect staff at risk of an electric shock

high voltage warning signIf you are an employer, you have responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 to protect your staff and the public from hazards.

Electric shocks can result in injury or even instant death which means it’s in your interest to take the necessary precautions to minimise the risk of them happening in your workplace.

The Health and Safety Executive estimates each year around 20 people will die at work following an electric shock or from electric burns.

What are you doing to prevent this happening in your workplace? Here are some top tips to help.  

  1.      Training:

A common reason for accidental electric shocks is when an inexperienced or insufficiently trained member of staff attempts a job they are not qualified to do. Even if the job seems relatively simple, it’s crucial only staff that are competent and appropriately skilled attempt electrical maintenance or repair jobs. 

  2.      Safety matting:

Employees working in front of an open switchboard, or on high voltage equipment require special protection. Electrical safety mats offer an additional level of reassurance. That’s because electrical safety mats are usually made of non-conducting material such as rubber. As such your staff are insulated from the ground and the risk of an electric shock is reduced.

  3.      Regular testing and routine maintenance:

Faulty wiring, damaged equipment and poorly fitted plugs can increase the risk of electric shocks. As such it’s important to carry out regular risk assessments and encourage staff to be vigilant and report electrical hazards immediately. After all, prevention is better than cure.

  4.      Contingencies

In the event of an electric shock it’s critical staff know how to respond.

Keep instincts in check. It can be dangerous to approach someone having an electric shock and so the first response should always be to isolate power sources. When approaching the casualty take precautions and insulate yourself from the ground with rubber matting. If it’s safe to do so push the power source away with a wooden broom or other object of low conductivity. And seek help, call 999 and request the assistance of other colleagues.  

  5.      Provide the right equipment

Provide staff with well-maintained electrical safety equipment. For example insulated gloves, insulated tools, insulating aprons and electrical safety mats. If staff have the correct equipment, they will feel more confident whilst at work. 

It can be difficult to predict the impact of an electric shock. That’s because it depends on numerous factors, including the voltage, the length of contact with the electrical source and how the electricity passes through the body.

Electricity is a high risk because of the way it can interfere with the Central Nervous System (the brain and spinal cord), the respiratory system and the cardiovascular system. This means electric shocks can disrupt breathing or normal heart rhythms to cause a fatal injury and the impact is likely to be more severe where electricity has passed through the head or chest. 

Working with electricity is necessary, after all our modern society is highly dependent on it being constantly available. But the risks cannot be ignored.

Are you doing enough to protect your staff?


Neil Maycock writes articles for

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