Working with electricity is an inherently hazardous undertaking. Electrical risk incorporates the danger of death, shock or other injury caused by electricity – through either direct or indirect exposure. The potential seriousness of these injuries requires the use of safety precautions and control measures designed to eliminate risk in the working environment. Key to this process is identification and supply of appropriate PPE.

There are many hazards when it comes to working with electricity. Electric shocks and burns can result from contact with exposed leads, faulty equipment or with metal surfaces including flooring and roofing. Electrical faults can also cause fires, and electricity can act as a source of ignition in flammable or explosive environments with devastating effect.

While all workers in any environment can be at risk of electrical injury, those in occupations including engineer, electrician or overhead line worker face greater risk than most, as everyday tasks bring them closer to potential sources of danger. Electrical installation & repair, equipment testing & inspection, and maintenance duties commonly leave workers exposed to risk of shock via contact or arcing.


Common Hazards

Non-electrical workers are also at risk of injury through contact with common items. The following areas of concern should be evaluated in a thorough safety risk assessment of all workplaces.

Power Lines

Energised power lines represent a major injury risk due to the presence of high voltages. Care must be taken to ensure there is no contact with power lines if work at heights require the use of scissor lifts or similar.

Tools & Equipment

Damaged tools and equipment represent a major risk, but repairs should only be undertaken by a licensed electrical worker. Issues can occur through breakages, cable damage, and exposed wires.

Wiring Faults and Overloads

Incorrect wiring can cause issues, as can overloading electrical outlets and sockets. Fire risk assessments should identify potential problems in these areas.

Exposed Parts

Electrical parts should never be exposed, as they present risk of shock and burns. This includes things such as damaged insulation on electrical cables or open power distribution units.

Ungrounded Equipment

Proper grounding eliminates unwanted voltage and reduces the risk of electrocution. Equipment should be adequately grounded to remove risk.

Improper Environment

Electrical equipment should never be operated in wet environments, as the presence of water increases the risk of electrical injury


Safety Measures

The most appropriate safety measures will be defined by the specific working environment and the tasks workers must carry out. As a minimum, workers should understand the fundamental nature of electricity and be able to identify and eliminate electrical hazards in the workplace. They should also be familiar with the use of appropriate PPE.

Provision of PPE

PPE for electrical work must be suitable for the task, thoroughly tested and in good working order. It must be able to withstand the energy at the point of work when working energised1 . It is also recommended that staff are trained in how to select and fit the correct type of equipment, and additionally trained on the use and care of equipment to ensure that it works effectively.

Depending on the nature of the work being carried out, some – or all – of the following PPE types may be appropriate:

  • Face protection – arc-rated full-face shields should be used where there is potential for high current and arcing.
  • Eye protection – metal glasses frames should not be worn.
  • Gloves – hand protection should be insulated to the highest voltage expectation for the work being undertaken.
  • Clothing – non-synthetic, non-fusible and flame-resistant fabrics should be used.
  • Footwear – non-conductive footwear should be worn.
  • Accessories – safety belts and harnesses should be checked and inspected including buckles, rings, hooks and clips.
  • Other tools and equipment – all tools should be insulated, as should additional equipment including mats or ladders 

The external environment and other present risks will influence the optimum choice for hand protection. For example, when working in cold temperatures, gloves must be able to withstand the conditions and still provide a comfortable fit without becoming stiff or losing elasticity. Hand protection is only effective when worn and unsuitability in existing environmental conditions can lead to removal and subsequent harm from the original risk. Protecting outdoor workers means providing a solution that offers protection in a wide band of temperatures, including frost resistance at -40˚C.

Other types of hazards may be present in addition to electrical hazards, so care should be taken to ensure selected hand protection that will provide the appropriate defence against these other known risks, depending on the environment. For example, electrical workers use tools which can present puncture risk, so the chosen solution should offer adequate defence, providing the highest safety levels, while ensuring hand protection is not compromised and meets its original intent.


Selection of Electrical Gloves

Electrical safety gloves are categorised by the level of voltage protection they provide and whether they are resistant to ozone. Workplace specifics will determine the most appropriate choice. Voltage breakdown and ozone resistance identification is as follows:

 Voltage Protection 
 Class 00   Maximum use voltage of 500 volts AC/proof tested to 2,500 volts AC and 10,000 volts DC
 Class 0  Maximum use voltage of 1,000 volts AC/proof tested to 5,000 volts AC and 20,000 volts DC
 Class 1  Maximum use voltage of 7,500 volts AC/proof tested to 10,000 volts AC and 40,000 volts DC
 Class 2  Maximum use voltage of 17,000 volts AC/proof tested to 20,000 volts AC and 50,000 volts DC
 Class 3  Maximum use voltage of 26,500 volts AC/proof tested to 30,000 volts AC and 60,000 volts DC
 Class 4  Maximum use voltage of 36,000 volts AC/proof tested to 40,000 volts AC and 70,000 volts DC    
 Ozone Resistance
 Type I  Not resistant to ozone
 Type II  Resistant to ozone

 Other risk categories to consider:

  • Resistance to acid (Category A)
  • Resistance to ozone (Category Z)
  • Resistance to low temperatures (Category C)
  • Resistance to oil (Category H)

The potential for catastrophic injury when working with electricity should never be underestimated, making selection of the appropriate PPE choice a major consideration for safety and operations managers. A thorough safety assessment should be conducted, with hazards removed or mitigated where possible. Suitable PPE should be made available, and all staff should be trained in its proper selection, use and care. 

For further information, view the Ansell Electrical Glove Selection Guide here