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HSE GUIDANCE ON SAFE WORKING WITH ELECTRICITY

Revised standard on management action required to reduce electrical risks

HSE has issued updated guidance for those carrying out work on or near electrical equipment. The guidance includes advice for managers and supervisors on the actions required by those who “control or influence the design, specification, selection, installation, commissioning, maintenance or operation of electrical equipment”.

Most electrical accidents occur because people are working on or near equipment that is:

  • thought to be dead but which is live;
  • known to be live but those involved do not have adequate training or appropriate equipment to prevent injury, or they have not taken adequate precautions.

Organisations are asked to check that current safe working practices address all aspects of the HSE guidance. Where there are no internal rules in place organisations should use the guidance to “devise safe working practices relating to their own specific circumstances and activities”.

Actions required of managers and supervisors

The guidance sets out the following action plan for managers and supervisors:

“1. Managers should establish a system of rules and procedures wherever electrical work is to be carried out, or ensure that contractors brought in to do electrical work have appropriate rules and procedures. These should be written down and everybody involved must be made aware of them as they will form the basis of task-specific risk assessments. The amount of detail depends on the circumstances; the simplest form may be a brief policy statement (perhaps reflecting a policy of always switching off, securing the isolation, working dead, and never working on live equipment) backed up by a set of simple instructions to reflect that policy. Where there are extensive or complex electrical systems, especially high-voltage systems, this will be reflected in the safety rules, which should embody a methodical approach so that the safety principles involved can be clearly understood by everyone.

2. Safety rules should set out the principles and general practices clearly and in a compact format. Those carrying out the work should be instructed to carry the safety rules with them. Workers should know the limitations of their work allowed under the safety rules. Detailed procedures for safe working on particular equipment, or under particular circumstances, should be the subject of separate documents, including task-specific risk assessments or method statements, which should be readily available when required (even in out-of-hours emergencies). These safety rules should be devised to reflect, among other things, the relevant organisation, personnel, the electrical system to be worked on, and the working environment. Further guidance can be obtained from three British Standards – BS6423,9 BS 662610 and BS 6867.11

3. If something unforeseen occurs during a working procedure, there should be a review of the work. Even a properly trained, competent worker may not always be aware of what to do when things go wrong. The worker should have been trained to recognise that there may be a need to change to a new system of work. It will normally be necessary for the worker to know how to refer a changed situation to the correct people, by communicating both up and down the management structure in the organisation.

If you have managerial or supervisory responsibilities, it is important that you ensure that everyone knows how to work safely and without risk to their health, and that all workers follow the safety rules and control measures identified in risk assessments:

  • you should be involved in planning the work and in the risk assessment process, coordinating the work where more than one group is involved, and discussing the necessary precautions and emergency procedures with the workers;
  • you must clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the supervisors and workers, including those of any contractors who may be employed;
  • you must ensure that supervisors are competent to supervise the work, with the level of supervision being appropriate to the danger and the competence of those carrying out the work;
  • you must identify those people who are competent and have knowledge and experience of the electrical system to be worked on. Anyone who does not have this will need a greater level of supervision, or will need to be given adequate training to make sure that they have the correct skills, knowledge and risk awareness for the task. Do not let unauthorised, unqualified or untrained people work on electrical systems.”

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