Electrical Safety

Electrical Hazard Symbol

Electrical Hazard Symbol

 Electricity: What are the hazards?

The main hazards associated with electricity are:


  • contact with live parts causing shock and burns – normal mains voltage, 230 volts AC, can kill. (Although most fatalities in the UK result from contact with overhead lines at much higher voltage.)
  • indirect injury (e.g. broken bones or concussion) resulting from a fall from height or other collision after contact with live parts
  • electrical faults or overloading which can cause fire
  • fire or explosion where electricity is the source of ignition in a flammable or explosive atmosphere.

For the great majority of our employees, use of fixed machinery and other work equipment, including portable electrical appliances at work will be little different from use in the home environment .


The “Do’s” and “Don’ts” section of our portable appliance guidance is required reading and must be followed by every employee.

Safety of our employees and others is ensured by providing appropriate levels of supervision, information, instruction and training and by the correct selection and procurement, installation and maintenance of work equipment.


Safety is further assured by preventing unauthorised use or access to particularly hazardous machinery, equipment and work areas by providing and maintaining additional safety features as appropriate (such as emergency stops or residual current devices) and by “locking off” the electrical supply and limiting and controlling access to competent authorised persons only.


Our electrical systems (the circuits, controls and wiring supplying and distributing electricity in our workplaces) are installed and maintained in a safe condition by authorised, skilled and trained employees and contractors in accordance with national recognised standards. Our electrical systems include:

  • the mains voltage wiring within our workplaces (often referred to as the “fixed wiring” for our socket outlets, lighting circuits, fixed machinery and fixed appliances (e.g. lathes, circular saws, milling machines, ovens, cookers, showers)
  • local and standby generators, including temporary installations on construction sites
  • battery back-up systems for emergency lighting
  • street Lighting and outdoor festive lighting
  • switch rooms and control panels (see also Section 3 of our workplace inspection guidance)


  • Employees and contractors engaged in construction work may be at risk from inadvertent contact with overhead lines or other underground services.
  • Employees involved in motor vehicle repair and other specialist maintenance activities may be at risk from inadvertent contact with high voltage systems or components.

Specific training and safe systems of work apply to those situations


Do not tamper with electrical systems or appliances.

You must not  modify electrical systems unless you are specifically authorised to do so.

You must immediately report any obvious fault or defect (e.g. charred, burnt or broken sockets or electrical fittings, intermittent faults, repeated ‘tripping’ of circuit breakers or blowing fuses to your manager or supervisor or via the Property Services Emergency Helpdesk 01592 583237 where the matter is urgent, or liable to give rise to serious or immediate danger.



Portable Electrical Appliance Safety


The term Potable Electrical Appliance covers a wide range of equipment including electric drills, extension leads, office and business equipment, portable grinders, pressure water cleaners, floor cleaners, catering equipment, scientific instruments, etc. used in a variety of working environments. Major items of plant, machinery and specialist equipment (e.g. equipment for use in potentially explosive atmospheres) are beyond the scope of this information page.


Portable electrical appliances must be selected, used and maintained to prevent (so far as is reasonably practicable) danger or harm.

For guidance and information on the appropriate selection and procurement of electrical appliances please refer to sections 5 and 6 our Procurement Guide OHS-C-03.


Our Guidance and Standards (OHS-C-62 series below) describe a regime of minimum standards for user checks, formal visual inspection (where required) and combined inspection and testing to ensure portable appliances remain safe in use.


User checks and formal visual inspections can be carried out by a competent employee. (In this context ‘competent’ means having suitable training, skills and knowledge for the task to prevent injury to themselves or others).


Council Services who choose to have their formal visual inspections and combined inspections and tests conducted via Property Services contract provision may find that the Contractor applies slightly different recommended periods for test and inspection. This is accepted by Property Services Contract Terms, is unlikely to involve additional cost and (other than in higher risk work environments) always ensures a regime which errs on the side of caution. 


 Contact Tom Ireland, Property Services Electrical Inspector, (or Property Services Helpdesk on 01592 583237) for more information about that contract provision.


Some useful definitions:


Definition: Portable Electrical Appliance

 For our purposes means equipment that is intended to be connected to a generator or a fixed installation by means of a flexible cable and either a plug and socket or a spur box, or similar means. This includes equipment that is either hand-held or hand-operated while connected to the supply, intended to be moved while connected to the supply, or likely to be moved while connected to the supply.

The definition includes extension leads and cord sets and appliances which have been fixed for security purposes such as those in public areas, sheltered accommodation and changing rooms, e.g. kettles, hairdryers, hand dryers, lamps etc.

The electrical supply to the equipment is assumed to be at a voltage that can give a fatal electrical shock, i.e. more than 50 V ac or 120 V dc.



Definition:Earthed equipment (Class I)

 Equipment reliant on the metallic (exposed conducting) parts of the equipment being effectively earthed. If this earth connection is lost there is a possibility of the exterior of the equipment becoming live, with a potentially fatal result. Anyone touching live metal will be in contact with electricity.


Definition:Double insulated equipment (Class II)                                          

 Equipment constructed with high-integrity insulation and does not have or need an earth connection to maintain safety. If you cannot see this symbol, you should assume that the electrical equipment is a Class I appliance.


Definition: RCD or Residual Current Device

 A special type of circuit breaker which works by continuously monitoring the electrical current in both the live and neutral conductors. This current is normally the same. If even a slight current imbalance is detected, the RCD cuts off the current very quickly, fast enough to prevent harm. RCDs are commonly fitted at domestic consumer units, at socket outlets, as part of appliance plugs and integrated within portable generators. It is important that the RCD is fitted as close to the source of electrical supply as possible. RCDs are fitted with test/reset buttons. It is important to test these before each use.


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