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Electrical Safety at Work: A Complete Guide to Electrical Hazards

According to Meteor Electrical, roughly 1.2 million people worldwide are injured by electrical accidents annually. In workplaces alone, it is reported that about 4,000 people are electrocuted on the job each year.

While electrical hazards can threaten any workplace, certain industries face a heightened risk due to the constant presence of electricity. This includes construction sites, manufacturing facilities, mining and utility companies, to name a few.

Offices aren’t danger-free zones either. Faulty desk lamps, overloaded power strips and hidden, damaged extension cords can all cause fires or shocks. 

The good news is, electrical hazards are largely preventable. By understanding the common dangers and implementing proper safety measures, workplaces can significantly reduce the risk of electrical accidents. 

To help you get started, take a closer look at the types of electrical hazards, common sources of workplace electrical risks and prevention tips.

What Are Electrical Hazards?

An electrical hazard refers to a hazardous situation where a worker comes into contact with live electrical components or items that have become energised due to malfunction. Such contact can cause a shock or even a more serious arc flash, which is an electrical explosion that can inflict severe burns and other injuries.

Types of Electrical Hazards

The core electrical dangers in the workplace come in three forms: shocks, burns from electricity, and arc blasts (explosions caused by electricity). Recognising these threats is important in ensuring electrical safety at work.

Electric Shock

An electric shock, or electrocution, occurs when a faulty power line, a lightning strike or any other external source of electricity passes through your body. This can also happen when you touch both wires in an outlet and come into contact with a live wire and the ground.

The severity of the shock depends on four key factors:

  • Amount of current: This is influenced by voltage and resistance. Higher currents can cause more serious harm, ranging from tingling to death.
  • Duration: The longer the current flows through your body, the worse the shock.
  • Path: The path the current takes through your body is crucial. Currents passing through vital organs are more dangerous.
  • Frequency: The frequency of the electrical current (measured in Hertz) also plays a role in the severity of the shock.

Electrical Burns

Considered the most common shock-related injury, an electrical burn is caused by contact with exposed electrical appliance components, wiring or lightning strikes. Symptoms include weakness, visible burns on the skin, headache and more.

Electrical accidents leave three types of burns, including:

  • Electrical Burns: These happen when electricity travels through your body, damaging tissues from the surface down to muscles and even bones.
  • Arc Burns: Intense heat from electrical arcs (mini-lightning strikes) or nearby explosions can cause these severe burns.
  • Thermal Contact Burns: Touching hot electrical components like overheated wires or equipment can lead to these more typical heat burns.

Just like any burn, electrical burns come in varying degrees of seriousness. The damage depends on several factors such as the body’s resistance, duration of contact and electrical strength. 

Electrical Arc Blasts

An electric arc blast is a dangerous situation that can happen when electricity travels through the air. This creates a powerful burst of heat that can injure people and start fires. The intense heat vaporises any nearby conductors, making the arc even stronger. 

In some situations, even small arcs can cause explosions if there are flammable materials around. Bigger arcs can be so powerful they damage equipment and hurl pieces of metal.

Keep in mind that arc blasts can be triggered by a few surprises and some everyday electrical issues. Sudden voltage spikes, caused by things like lightning or switching on appliances, can create an intense arc. Even while checking electrical systems, accidentally touching the wrong spot with a tester can cause a spark. 

Common Sources of Workplace Electrical Hazards

It’s hard to imagine a workplace that doesn’t rely on electricity in some way, from powering computers and lights to keeping machinery running. But for all its benefits, electricity poses serious dangers. 

Unlike a tripping hazard or a falling object, electrical risks can be silent and invisible, especially if you’re not closely paying attention. Let’s explore the most common sources of electrical hazards in your workplace, and how to stay safe while keeping things running smoothly. 

Faulty Wiring

According to electricians, faulty wiring is the most dangerous aspect of their job. It can be deadly and cause fires, electrocutions and serious injuries. Here are some types of faulty wiring to watch out for:

  • Damaged or loose connections: These can easily be spotted if a wire looks out of place, isn’t properly connected, or is clearly damaged.
  • Exposed wires: Electrical wires should always be covered with insulation. Bare wires are dangerous and need to be repaired by a qualified professional immediately.
  • Wiring connected to malfunctioning equipment: If a piece of equipment isn’t working properly, there’s a good chance there’s an electrical problem with the wiring.

Fortunately, you can often spot the warning signs of faulty wiring without putting yourself in danger. For example, if you see scorch marks around connections, immediately call an electrician to have it fixed. Crackling or popping sounds and electrical smells like burning plastics are also signs to watch out for.

Damaged Tools and Equipment

Using damaged tools and equipment can be fatal. Remember that these tools experience wear and tear over time. This can create cracks, frays and other weaknesses that make them dangerous to use—especially when plugged.

Unless you’re a qualified electrician, do not attempt to fix damaged equipment. If you find any defects, tag the equipment as ‘defective’ and remove it from use. This prevents accidental use and keeps everyone safe. 

You should also follow lockout/tagout procedures before any electrical maintenance or repairs. It ensures the equipment is completely de-energised, preventing accidental shocks.

Overloaded Circuits

An overloaded circuit occurs when too many devices are plugged into a single circuit, demanding more electricity than it can safely handle. 

Say it’s a late afternoon in a small office and three employees are preparing themselves a snack. Someone uses the microwave, while the other two simultaneously switch on the kettle and toaster. All this activity is happening on the same kitchen circuit.

While each appliance might use a reasonable amount of power individually (think more than 3 watts), combined they can easily overload the circuit. This can lead to breaker trips and fire accidents. 

Moreover, an overloaded circuit can cause fluctuations in voltage. The surge or dip in power can damage expensive electronics and appliances plugged into the circuit.

Wet Conditions

Electricity and water pose a serious safety threat when they come into contact. Even a seemingly insignificant amount, like a spilt cup of coffee or working with wet hands, can significantly increase the risk of electrical shock.

That’s why electrical outlets should be placed away from water sources or pathways. Employees should also follow safety protocols like wearing gloves and making sure their hands are dry when working around electricity.

Overhead Power Lines

While this electrical hazard might seem specific to outdoor construction work, you should be aware of overhead power lines at all times due to their severity. These lines carry extremely high voltage, and any contact can lead to serious consequences – not just electrocution, but also severe burns.

When working near overhead power lines, maintain a minimum distance of ten feet for your own safety. It applies not only to yourself but also to any equipment you’re using. Keep power tools, scaffolding and cranes away from power lines as well.

Electrical Safety In The Workplace: How To Prevent Electrical Hazards

Now that you’re aware of the potential sources of workplace electrical hazards, below are some of the measures you can keep in mind for electrical safety:

Provide Proper Training

For employees facing electrical hazards on the job, conducting an electrical safety training program is a must. The training should equip everyone, from entry-level workers to project managers and supervisors, with the knowledge and skills to stay safe.

To make the program holistic, here are the topics you should cover:

  • PPE requirements: Training should cover the proper selection and use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) like insulated gloves and safety glasses, based on the specific electrical hazards encountered.
  • Emergency Response Procedures: Knowing how to respond effectively in case of an electrical accident, including shock or fire, is important for saving lives.
  • Safe Work Practices: Training should discuss specific safe work practices relevant to electrical tasks, ensuring employees follow established procedures to reduce risk.
  • Occupational First Aid and CPR Training: The ability to provide basic first aid and CPR in case of an electrical accident can be life-saving.

Make sure that you select the right training method and materials. Include hands-on exercises, classroom instruction and interactive tasks in a safe training environment.

Hire Licensed Electricians

Businesses often rely on intricate electrical systems, from the intricate network of wires and fuse boxes to lighting, fire safety and ventilation. Once your company expands and demands on your electrical system grow, you might also need system upgrades.

However, you should never tackle electrical work yourself unless you’re qualified. For safe and reliable installations and upgrades, collaborate with qualified electrical experts.

These professionals possess the knowledge and experience to ensure your electrical system functions flawlessly, meeting all safety regulations and keeping your business running smoothly.

Don’t settle for just any electrician! Seek out qualified professionals in your area. When you establish a long-term relationship with the same electrical provider, they’ll become familiar with your specific system. This allows them to provide tailored risk assessments and recommend the most appropriate safety measures.

Perform Regular Inspections

Regular electrical inspections are important for catching potential problems before they become safety hazards. Typically conducted by qualified professionals, they focus on identifying issues like overheating components, damaged insulation and loose connections, among others.

Promptly addressing any problems found during an inspection reduces the risk of accidents and costly repairs. Think of it as preventative maintenance for your electrical system—a small investment that pays off in the long run.

Keep Workspaces Clean and Clutter-Free

A tidy and organised work area is key to preventing electrical dangers like overloaded circuits and fires. Regularly clear away any debris or materials that could touch electrical equipment and spark fires. Additionally, ensure proper ventilation in work areas to prevent electrical components from overheating—another fire hazard.

Use The Correct Safety Signs and Labels

For both safety and efficiency, electrical panels, circuits and equipment must be clearly labelled using appropriate methods. This way, employees can quickly and accurately identify them during emergencies or routine maintenance.

Labels should include details like circuit numbers, voltage ratings and equipment specifications. Most importantly, emergency shut-off switches and controls should be prominently marked and readily accessible to all personnel for a fast response in case of electrical emergencies.

Develop an Emergency Response Plan

Even with robust safety protocols, electrical accidents can still happen in the workplace. Whether it’s due to faulty wiring, damaged equipment or an unexpected surge, these incidents can occur without warning.

A comprehensive emergency response plan, however, can make a critical difference in ensuring everyone’s safety. Here’s a sample emergency plan to follow in the event of an electrical accident:

  • Do not touch the victim. Electricity can travel through the victim’s body and shock you too.
    • Disconnect the power source. Turn off appliances, unplug them or flip the breaker if it’s nearby. Be extra cautious in wet areas like bathrooms, pools or anywhere with damp ground. If unsure about the ground’s dryness, shut off the entire building’s power supply for maximum safety.
  • Call for help. Call 995 for SDCF.
  • Assess the person’s condition. See if the person is awake and breathing. If the victim is unconscious and not breathing, begin CPR. Push hard and fast on the centre of the chest, just below the breastbone. Stack your hands and compress about a third of the chest depth. Do 30 compressions quickly.
  • Stay calm and wait for the ambulance to arrive. Continue CPR until help arrives or the victim regains consciousness. If the victim is conscious, keep them calm and comfortable until medical professionals show up.

Make your emergency plan clear and detailed. Include step-by-step instructions on how to use a defibrillator, perform CPR and what to do after an electrical accident.

Final Thoughts

Accidents can strike anytime. Just like any accident, electrical shocks can happen in a flash, and how you respond is what matters. Remember, even minor electrical mishaps can have serious consequences like muscle damage, burns and respiratory failure.

We, at Medlink, can be your partner in electrical safety. We offer a variety of services to empower individuals and businesses to address emergencies and create a safe working environment. These services include:

Let Medlink help you prioritise safety in your workplace. Contact us today to discuss your specific needs and ensure you have the right tools and knowledge to respond effectively in any emergency.


What is called an electrical hazard?

An electrical hazard is any situation that presents a potential danger from electricity. This can include risks of shock, burns, arc flashes (explosions of energy), fires or even explosions.

How do I prevent electric shock?

To prevent electric shock, here are some key tips:

  1. Hire licensed electricians to perform regular inspections and risk assessments.
  2. Don’t overload outlets.
  3. Be mindful of water hazards.
  4. Inspect cords and plugs regularly.

What should I do if someone gets shocked?

If it’s safe to do so, turn off the power at the breaker box. Do not touch the person if they are still in contact with the electrical source. 

Call 995 immediately. If the person is unconscious, begin CPR.

About Medlink Healthcare Group

Committed to providing a comprehensive healthcare ecosystem, Medlink Healthcare Group delivers top-notch ambulance services, first-aid courses and industrial paramedics. We aim to empower individuals, businesses and communities to effectively respond in times of medical emergencies, right when it matters the most.

Our first aid courses cover a wide range of topics, including a CPR + AED course, BCLS course, occupational first aid course, and a standard first aid course in Singapore—both accredited by SRFAC. Whether you’re an individual looking to acquire life-saving skills or a business investing in workplace safety and health training, we have the right course for you.

Alongside training programs, our private ambulance services are led by highly trained paramedics and equipped with cutting-edge medical technology. Every second counts; we are always ready to provide prompt and expert care when you need it most. 

Our industrial paramedics solutions can also meet the unique needs of your workplace, from on-call doctors to screening exercises and specialised clinics. We ensure that you have access to the right medical services to keep employees safe and sound, no matter where they are. 

Your journey to safety starts with us. Contact us today and prepare to respond in any emergency.

This blog post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for a comprehensive first-aid course provided by certified professionals. Readers are strongly encouraged to acquire a first aid education to receive the appropriate training and certification.

We do not assume responsibility for any actions taken based on the information provided in this article. Always consult with certified first aid professionals and seek hands-on training to ensure you are well-prepared to handle emergency situations competently.

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