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July 14, 2015

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Part two: the importance of effective electrical safety management


light-bulb-503881_640In last week’s article, Bill Bates looked at the dangers of bad risk management when it comes to electrical safety. Here, he outlines the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s code of practice.

IET ‘Code of Practice for Electrical Safety Management’

In 2013, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) published the Code of Practice for Electrical Safety Management, as a tool to help organisations of all sizes. It provides guidance on the process for managing electrical safety, and aiding responsible personnel to reach a certain level of knowledge and understanding to manage the risks associated with an electrical system.

The CoP offers, in a single document, a comprehensive overview of the fundamentals of electrical safety in the workplace. It has a structured approach to managing electrical safety. The result of applying this guidance is confidence that risks associated with an electrical system are adequately covered. It also provides an outline structure for managing other health and safety hazards.

The structured approach was seen as an important aspect of the project to avoid issues associated with a ‘firefighting’ or ‘gap filling’ approach, often witnessed when dealing with a broad range of individuals within organisations. Another important aspect of this structured approach is to offer a way of involving people, gathering evidence and to determine where improvements are needed.

Who is the code of practice for?

There are likely to be a number of people responsible for electrical safety within many organisations who may not have an adequate underpinning knowledge of electrical safety. The code of practice has been written to enable both technical and non-technical people to understand the broad range of related activities and key requirements that need to be considered.

It is not intended to provide an introduction to the first principles of electricity or attempt to replace the detailed procedures which may already be in place in organisations. Instead, it aims to bridge the gap between these areas of knowledge by providing comprehensive good practice recommendations and advice.

As the included activities are based on good practice health and safety principles, there is also no differentiation on applicability related to both the size and type of organisation. This means that the code of practice is applicable to a range of responsible people in small, medium and large scale organisations across a broad range of industry, commerce and the public sector, as most organisations have some form of electrical system.

Examples of typical job roles that should find this code of practice useful include:

  • Operations or engineering managers
  • Building or facilities managers
  • Project or production managers and engineers
  • Health and safety managers and consultants.

In the broadest context the code of practice will be applicable to all employees, managers and trainees who are involved in or managing electrically related work who do not have an overview of electrical safety systems. This includes administrators, inexperienced electrical workers and those that may not have electrical skills as their core discipline. It can also be used by those contracting out electrical work to ensure that it is done within appropriate safety management principles and complies with relevant standards.

What is the process?

The code of practice highlights four important aspects to consider. Three general areas (policy, procedure, and people) would be regarded as applicable to all organisations. The final one (specific issues) deals with certain aspects of electrical systems that may or may not be relevant to an organisation.

Each of these key elements has an associated group of topics to address (potentially 26 in total). Some example topics taken from each of the above groups include:

  • Electrical safety policy
  • Leadership
  • Safe working practices
  • Procedures
  • Incident investigation
  • Appointments, roles and responsibilities
  • Training
  • Competence
  • Working on or near exposed live electrical parts
  • Buried cables on your land

An important element of the overall approach to the project was to include an evaluation tool in the form of self-assessment questions associated with each of the topics. This makes the whole process more practical to end users as they are able to determine a response to the questions.

The questions are designed to determine what level of activity is in place for the respective topics. As can be envisaged, this produces a detailed summary of what an organisation actually does (or not) in the context of managing electrical safety. Each topic follows a simple template and includes one or more questions related to the topic as well as some key requirements in the form of simple bulleted lists.

The resulting self-assessment summary can then be used to determine any required improvement action plan and report the outcome to interested parties across an organisation.

What does the code of practice enable you to do?

It enables the organisation to assemble an evidence base of the electrical safety management system, its strengths and weaknesses. An organisation can recognise where they need to improve and be better placed to request assistance in particular areas of their business if using external resources. They can better understand what they need to do to follow recognised good practice activities and produce a prioritised action plan tuned to their particular business needs.

Resources, whether they are internal or external, can be used effectively so that they are addressing the relevant issues and should therefore provide effective management. If confronted with a difficult situation the organisation can demonstrate its safety management system and its efforts to improve.

A final point to highlight is that the intention is not to regard the self-assessment and resulting evaluation as a one-shot activity: it should be included within a continuous improvement plan. Organisations change, which means there is normally an evolution of infrastructure, equipment, processes and people where the underlying risks and the required control measures will also potentially change.

The IET’s ‘Code of Practice for Electrical Safety Management’ can be purchased for £130.00 (or £84.50 for IET Members) via the IET’s website.

Bill Bates worked for over 40 years as an electrical engineer, and 21 years as a specialist HSE inspector, covering a wide range of industrial and commercial sectors and investigating many serious incidents, including fatalities. This has given him the experience to assist many organisations in managing their risks and he contributed extensively to the IET’s Electrical Safety Management CoP.

Approaches to managing the risks associated Musculoskeletal disorders

In this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast, we hear from Matt Birtles, Principal Ergonomics Consultant at HSE’s Science and Research Centre, about the different approaches to managing the risks associated with Musculoskeletal disorders.

Matt, an ergonomics and human factors expert, shares his thoughts on why MSDs are important, the various prevalent rates across the UK, what you can do within your own organisation and the Risk Management process surrounding MSD’s.

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