Which Jobs Could Put You More At Risk Of An Electric Shock At Work?


The Law Of… Switching Off The Source

Most places of work pose the threat of an electric shock at work. However, some professions pose more of a risk than others because of the nature of the work being done.

Jonathan Thursby, Workplace Injury claims specialist, explains which career choices could put you more at risk of an electric shock and provides advice on how to avoid what can be a fatal injury at work.

Where Am I Most At Risk Of An Electric Shock At Work?

Any place of work that has electrical items within the building poses a threat to health and safety. However, there are some professions where an electric shock is more common.

Common places where an electric shock at work is more likely to occur include:

  • Construction
  • Electrical maintenance
  • Catering
  • Hairdressing
  • Theatre Production

Those working with industrial and engineering machinery may be exposed to equipment that uses up to 1000 volts of electricity. A mistake with health and safety around machinery of this sort can be extremely dangerous and cause a fatal electric shock, known as electrocution.

Why Do Electric Shocks At Work Occur?

You don't have to be an electrician to be at risk of an electric shock. Electrical equipment surrounds us in the workplace and it is often the case that when an electric shock occurs, the person was just carrying on their job.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, the majority of electric shocks at work occur because:

  • The equipment that is being used or worked on is thought to be 'dead' i.e. not have an electric current running through it
  • The person handling the equipment is aware it is 'live' but has not had adequate training or taken adequate precautions around the electrical equipment.

What Are The Physical Effects Of An Electric Shock At Work?

Electric shocks can have varying degrees of seriousness depending on several factors.

Variables that can affect the physical effects of an electric shock include:

  • Size of electric voltage
  • Length of time the current flows
  • Which body parts are involved
  • Whether moisture was present

The most important variable is the size of voltage. In the case of industrial and engineering machinery where machines can exceed 1000 volts, electrocution is more likely. If, however, the voltage is much less, there are several different physical effects of an electric shock.

Symptoms of an electric shock include:

  • Irregular heartbeat or cardiac arrest
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Burns
  • Muscle spasms
  • Bone fractures and/or dislocated joints
  • Any possible injuries sustained from being thrown by the electric current

When someone experiences an electric shock at work, the voltage from the electricity source travels through the body and heats up muscle tissues. This can result in hospitalisation, surgery and potentially cause permanent disabilities.

The extent of your injuries may also depend on whether:

  • The current caused you to let go of a safe object (e.g. safety rail)
  • The current caused you to continue holding onto a dangerous object (e.g. a live plug)

What Can You Do If Your Colleague Is Experiencing An Electric Shock At Work?

Do not touch someone who is experiencing or has experienced an electric shock. It is entirely possible to suffer an electric shock if current is still running through them.

If you discover someone suffering an electric shock:

  • If possible, turn off the source of electricity
  • Begin CPR if the person shows no sign of circulation, such as breathing, coughing or movement
  • Attempt to prevent the person from becoming chilled
  • Apply a bandage to any burns or wounds

How Can You Prevent An Electric Shock At Work?

The Health and Safety Executive have produced Safe Working Practices guidance on Electricity at Work that details many ways in which the risk of an electric shock at work can be reduced.

If you work with high voltage electrical equipment, they provide the following advice:

  • Ensure electrical equipment is correctly designed, constructed, installed and maintained
  • All electrical equipment should meet the Electricity at Work Regulations (1989)
  • Select equipment that is suitable for the environment it will be used in
  • Assess the situation before work is carried out to ensure the equipment can and will be used correctly
  • Safety rules for all employees should be set out clearly in a compact format
  • Employers should set out a system of rules and procedures wherever electrical work is to be carried out.

If you don't work in an industrial environment, it is unlikely that you will come across equipment which operates large voltage. Therefore, the Health and Safety Executive also provide advice for those employers and employees working with portable electric equipment in low-risk environments.

They suggest encouraging employers and employees to:

  • Look at the cable of the equipment to check it isn't damaged, before use
  • Check for damage to the plug
  • Check for signs of overheating
  • Make sure all electrical equipment is inspected from between every 6 months to every 4 years depending on the type of equipment
  • Ensure that damaged or faulty equipment is recognised and removed from use without delay

Can You Claim For An Electric Shock At Work?

If you have suffered an electric shock at work because of another's carelessness, you could be entitled to compensation. Employers have a legal requirement to maintain sufficient health and safety practices in the environment in which you work in. If health and safety has been neglected in any way, including not providing enough training for employees, there could be grounds for claiming compensation for injury and damages suffered as a result of an accident.

Can Simpson Millar Help Me With My Electric Shock At Work Compensation Claim?

Simpson Millar have a dedicated Personal Injury team who have many years' experience in dealing with personal injury claims brought about because of an accident at work.

Jonathan comments:

"It's a good idea to have an electrical equipment audit scheduled to ensure electrical equipment is being used appropriately around the workplace. That includes low-risk environments like offices where people are often more complacent."

"For those working in industrial environments, training is key. If a worker has not been trained to work with high voltages safely, they put themselves and their colleagues at risk."

"If you have suffered an electric shock at work, if you can, take pictures of what caused the shock. It can make a compensation claim run more smoothly if there is plenty of evidence of negligence."

Contact our Personal Injury team of solicitors and we can provide you free impartial advice as to whether you have grounds for an electric shock at work compensation claim.

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