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[ Spotlight: Safe isolation ] Safe isolation: Need-to-know


1. Regulation 14 of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 leaves no room for live working, stating that: No person shall be engaged in any work activity on or so near any live conductor (other than one suitable covered with insulating material so as to prevent danger) that danger may arise, unless (all three of the following conditions are met) –


(a) It is reasonable in all the circumstances for it to be dead; and (b) It is reasonable in all the circumstances for him to be at work on or near it while it is live; and


(c) Suitable precautions (including where necessary the provision of suitable protective equipment) are taken to prevent injury.


2. The following shortcuts are not acceptable and do not comply with the regulations: a) When a circuit needs to be isolated, just switching the circuit-breaker off and placing insulation tape over it;


b) Removal of the fuse and leaving it on top of the distribution board: the fuse should be retained by the person carrying out the work and a lockable fuse insert with a padlock should be fitted, with an appropriate caution notice attached; and


c) Leaving unsecured any circuits that need to be safely isolated.


3. Full care must be taken to ensure that inadvertent reconnection of the supply during the course of electrical work is not made.


4. It should never be assumed that equipment is dead just because a particular isolation device has been placed in the ‘off’ position – follow the correct procedure for proving dead as outlined in HSE Guidance Note GS38, Electrical test equipment for use by electricians.


5. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires employers to ensure that appropriate locking devices are made available to their employees.


and flair, others comment that this and other aspects of the assessment require them to visit competencies that are far removed from them at that point in their training and workplace experience. Undeniably, it calls for a greater focus on safe working across the delivery of electrical training programmes – otherwise, the premise that our vocational training structure successfully prepares individuals to reach the defining standard of competence required in their occupation, is more a hope than an expectation. It seems some of them are being prepared to fail.


Besides the employee or trainee, the other obvious duty of


care on the electrical contractor is to the client. Statutory duties are placed on employers to ensure that ‘employees engaged in such work or near electrical equipment implement safe systems of work and have the technical knowledge, training and/or experience to carry out the work safely’. Safe isolation is not just commonsense, its law. It’s what you’d expect from a professional, and in our industry, professional should equal safe.


July 2012 ECA Today 67


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