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Worker received shock using a pressure washing machine

A worker received a 240 Volt electric shock whilst using a pressure water washing machine. An investigation found the company had failed to: a) maintain the washer, b) provide a safe system of work and c) notify the existence of the factory to HSE. There was a high potential for serious injury from contact with 240 Volt electricity supply when using water washing equipment.

Action

The company was prosecuted under The Factories Act 1961 (except section 135), Section 137, Sub Section 1, The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (No 4) paragraph 2, and The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (No 4) paragraph 1, and fined.

Comment

All work equipment should be regularly checked to ensure it is safe to use. A visual check each day, or each time the equipment is used is likely to identify many of the potential electrical faults. Work equipment should also be thoroughly tested regularly. This should be done frequently enough that there is little chance a fault will develop that will lead to danger.

In general, equipment used in harsh environments such as building sites or outdoors will need more regular testing than equipment used in an office environment. It is a good idea to note down your decision on the frequency of testing for each item of equipment and then ensure the tests are carried out. It is also a good idea to note down the results of each test so that deterioration can be spotted as early as possible.

You should regularly review your frequency of testing and change it according to the number and type of defects found.

Electrical injuries

Electrical injuries can be caused by a wide range of voltages but the risk of injury is generally greater with higher voltages and is dependent upon individual circumstances. Torch batteries can ignite flammable substances.

Alternating current (AC) and Direct Current (DC) electrical supplies can cause a range of injuries including:

Electric shock 

A voltage as low as 50 volts applied between two parts of the human body causes a current to flow that can block the electrical signals between the brain and the muscles. This may have a number of effects including:

  •     Stopping the heart beating properly
  •     Preventing the person from breathing
  •     Causing muscle spasms


The exact effect is dependent upon a large number of things including the size of the voltage, which parts of the body are involved, how damp the person is, and the length of time the current flows.

Electric shocks from static electricity such as those experienced when getting out of a car or walking across a man-made carpet can be at more than 10,000 volts, but the current flows for such a short time that there is no dangerous effect on a person. However, static electricity can cause a fire or explosion where there is an explosive atmosphere (such as in a paint spray booth).

Electrical burns 

When an electrical current passes through the human body it heats the tissue along the length of the current flow. This can result in deep burns that often require major surgery and are permanently disabling. Burns are more common with higher voltages but may occur from domestic electricity supplies if the current flows for more than a few fractions of a second.

Loss of muscle control  People who receive an electric shock often get painful muscle spasms that can be strong enough to break bones or dislocate joints. This loss of muscle control often means the person cannot ‘let go’ or escape the electric shock. The person may fall if they are working at height or be thrown into nearby machinery and structures.

Thermal burns 

Overloaded, faulty, incorrectly maintained, or shorted electrical equipment can get very hot, and some electrical equipment gets hot in normal operation. Even low voltage batteries (such as those in motor vehicles) can get hot and may explode if they are shorted out.

People can receive thermal burns if they get too near hot surfaces or if they are near an electrical explosion. Other injuries may result if the person pulls quickly away from hot surfaces whilst working at height or if they then accidentally touch nearby machinery.

A single low voltage torch battery can generate a spark powerful enough to cause a fire or explosion in an explosive atmosphere such as in a paint spray booth, near fuel tanks, in sumps, or many places where aerosols, vapours, mists, gases, or dusts exist.

 

 

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