18 Aug Electrical hazards to be wary of in commercial properties
Electrical hazards in commercial properties are very common and health and safety guidance places responsibility on the business owner or employer to minimise hazards, risk and make commercial spaces as safe as possible.
Fortunately, addressing electrical hazards can be relatively simple, although you’ll need to identify each of them before a solution can be created.
Here’s the five most dangerous electrical hazards in commercial properties:
1. Wet fingers (bad health and safety practice)
It might surprise you to learn that every day in Great Britain a worker is electrocuted because they operate an electrical circuit with wet fingers. Whether it’s flicking a light switch or picking up a hedge trimmer, water and electricity do not mix. In a commercial environment, you must prevent this with health and safety education.
Sadly, you can’t account for stupidity or a lapse in judgement. However, you can do your best to educate employees about the risks of electricity. You can also use signage outside wet areas to remind employees to dry their hands.
What this comes down to is bad health and safety practice. It is your responsibility as an employer to ensure as far as is reasonably practical the health and safety of employees. A good education program will typically satisfy this criteria.
2. Portable electrical equipment
Most electrical accidents in commercial properties occur as a result of faulty appliances, built in or standalone. Movable equipment should be PAT tested every 24-months, but you can do better by having them tested ever 12-months. Your built-in appliances, such as your booking equipment, should be tested every 12-months.
If you do not regularly test your appliances, this presents a hazard. Appliances can become dangerous in a short space of time. Whether it’s a mouse chewing away at wiring or a dishwasher’s circuit going bad, things happen.
The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 require you to ensure electrical equipment is maintained. So, this is a matter of health and safety. Appliances are used every day by your staff. They flick the switch and rely on equipment at work.
3. RCDs (residual current devices)
Any equipment on a 230v (mains voltage) circuit represents a significant hazard to health if it becomes damaged or if there is a fault. Before and after each use, your 230v equipment should be visually checked every shift. There should be an RCD device to detect most faults, so that the system is rapidly switched off if a fault is detected.
The RCD itself should be installed by a competent electrician and kept enclosed. It should be checked daily to ensure it is in correct working order. If the RCD is tripping or making a strange noise, you should call an electrician out immediately.
An RCD is designed to protect against electrocution and fire caused by earth faults, but it isn’t a fool proof system. The best way to protect against electrocution and fire caused by earth faults is to maintain your electrical system properly.
4. Outdated electrical wiring
If you operate out of an old commercial building that hasn’t been renovated recently, there’s a chance your using outdated electrical wiring. The issue here is the wiring might now qualify as safe today due to overload potential. What this means is the wiring may not be robust enough to handle the electrical load of modern machinery.
The overloading of circuits is very dangerous because it represents a fire risk and can seriously damage a circuit. Old electrical wiring is typically rated to carry lower amps than modern businesses draw on, which causes overloading.
Circuits that are over twenty years old will be due for replacement now. If you are unsure about the condition and age of your electrical wiring, we strongly recommend you have an electrical inspection carried out by a competent electrician.
5. Exposed wiring
Exposed wiring causes two types of hazard:
1. A hazard because the current isn’t isolated, such as with a naked wire, or;
2. A hazard because the wire causes a tripping hazard (think extension cords).
If you notice an exposed wire hanging from the ceiling or at the back of a cupboard, DO NOT TOUCH IT. You should call an electrician immediately.
If you have extension cord wires trailing the floor of your commercial property, use safety and hazard tape to stick them close to the ground and put up a notice sign. If you can, trail the wire around the edge of the room rather than across the walkway.