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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
Regulation 7 requires that all conductors in a system that may give rise to danger shall either:
Regulation 12 states that where necessary to prevent danger, the supply must be cut off or isolated. Isolation means the disconnection and separation of electrical equipment from every source of electrical energy in such a way that disconnection and separation is secure.
Regulation 13 requires suitable precautions to be taken to ensure that once equipment is isolated so that work can be carried out on it, it cannot become electrically charged again while the work is being carried out on it.
An example of this is disconnecting a fuse box to enable work to be done on the electrical cabling. In these circumstances, adequate precautions will not be taken if the fuse is simply disconnected and left hanging next to the box – someone could easily re-insert the fuse not knowing the reason for the disconnection, thus making the system live again.
Regulation 14 states that no-one shall be work on or so near any live conductor that danger may arise unless:
Regulation 15 requires that there be adequate working space, safe access and adequate lighting to enable work on electrical equipment to be carried out safely.
Regulation 16 specifies that anyone working on electrical systems where technical knowledge or experience is necessary to prevent danger must have the required knowledge and/or experience or be under suitable supervision.
In any proceedings for an offence consisting of a contravention of regs 4(4), 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 or 16, it shall be a defence for any person to prove that he took all reasonable steps and exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of that offence.
The Health and Safety Executive may by a certificate in writing exempt any person, premises, electrical equipment, system, process or any activity from any requirement or prohibition stated in the Electricity at Work Regulations.
Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.
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