Electrical safety

Identify hazards and control the risks of injury from exposure to electricity.


What is an electrical hazard?

An electrical hazard is present when a person can come into contact with electricity in the workplace. Contact with electricity can result in an electric shock or electrocution. This can occur through direct or indirect contact with electricity, such as:

  • direct contact with energised parts of electrical equipment, or
  • indirect contact where electricity flows through conductive materials

The main electrical hazards include:

  • contact with exposed live parts
  • equipment faults
  • using equipment that is not rated and not appropriate for the environment it is operated in

These hazards can result in serious and fatal injuries and incidents, such as:

  • persons receiving:
    • a serious or fatal electrical shock
    • internal and external burns, nerve and muscle damage, eye and lung injuries
  • an arc flash, fire or explosion occurring

Working safely with electricity

Employers must provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees, so far as is reasonably practicable.

Employers must provide and maintain systems of work that are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health. This includes ensuring systems of work are developed, communicated and implemented. The systems of work should include, for example, details about:

  • the provision, use, inspection, testing and maintenance of electrical equipment
  • electrical installations, under the employer’s management and control
  • processes to ensure employees are provided with information, instruction, training or supervision to work safely with electrical equipment at the workplace
  • procedures to report and tag out damaged and faulty equipment

Identify hazards

Employers must identify the level of risk to the health and safety of employees and other persons from exposure to hazards, such as electric shock at a workplace under the employers’ management and control.

When identifying electrical hazards in the workplace, it is important to consider:

  • the type of electrical equipment used
  • how and where it is used and stored
  • how it is maintained

Common electrical hazards can be created when:

  • portable electrical equipment and extension leads are frequently moved, such as plugs, sockets, electrical connections, and cables
  • equipment is used in cramped spaces with metalwork, such as inside a tank or bin, where it may be difficult to avoid electric shock if an electrical fault develops
  • equipment is used in environments where there is frequent water or liquid such as commercial kitchens and garden centres (nurseries)
  • equipment is used outdoors or in hostile environments

Hostile environments

A hostile environment is one where heat, UV, moisture, vibration, sharp objects, corrosive chemicals or dust are present. For example, construction sites, manufacturing areas within factories, workshops, and workplaces in which maintenance or fabrication activities occur.

Assess the risks

Employers must assess the risks for each identified hazard, including those associated with the electrical equipment used in the workplace. The degree and likelihood of employees or other people at the workplace being exposed to those hazards must also be assessed.

In assessing risks, employers should take into account the:

  • type of equipment being used
  • environmental conditions
  • likelihood of damage to the equipment
  • risk of employees or other people being exposed to energised parts
  • manufacturers' recommendations such as whether the equipment is suitable for domestic or commercial use

Controlling risk

Where there is a risk to health and safety, employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable, eliminate the risk. If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk, the risk must be reduced, so far as is reasonably practicable.

Use the hierarchy of control to identify and implement the highest order of control. In many cases several control measures may need to be implemented to reduce the risk, so far as reasonably practicable.

For more information about controlling this risk using the hierarchy of control, see:

Examples of common ways to control risks include:

  • regularly inspecting leads and cables for wear, damage before use
  • tagging out and removing any faulty or damaged electrical equipment from service
  • ensuring only competent people, such as appropriately licensed or registered electricians, carry out repairs to electrical installations and equipment
  • protecting power circuits from overloading by using an appropriately rated protection device such as, an RCD or circuit breaker
  • providing enough individual socket outlets for equipment
  • using battery powered equipment instead of mains operated, where possible
  • using lead stands or insulated cable hangers to keep leads off the ground and away from sharp edges
  • using cable protection ramps or covers to protect cables and cords, where applicable

Inspections, testing and tagging

A visual inspection of leads and equipment should always be conducted before use to ensure there is no damage. Signs of damage can include:

  • cuts, fraying, heavy scuffing
  • damage to plug, bent pins, taped leads
  • visible internal wires or coloured wires
  • burn marks or staining on the plug

Regular testing and tagging of electrical equipment is necessary to detect electrical faults and deterioration that cannot be found by visual inspection.

The nature and frequency of inspection and testing depends on factors such as the type of electrical equipment, the operating environment and how it is used (see the inspection and testing timeframes section below).

A piece of electrical equipment that has a test tag does not necessarily mean that the equipment is in good condition. For example, it may have been damaged between testing and tagging intervals. Always ensure that damaged equipment is not used. Damaged equipment is to be discarded appropriately or tagged out and repaired by a competent person.

Maintenance and any electrical work needs to be undertaken by someone competent and suitably qualified. For example, some people are only competent to undertake a pass/fail test of electrical equipment, while a licenced electrician is also able to repair equipment defects identified in testing/tagging.

For detailed information about recommended timeframes for inspection, testing and tagging of portable electrical equipment in different environmental conditions and types of workplaces, see:

Inspection and testing timeframes

Information, instruction, training and supervision

Employers must provide any necessary information, instruction, training or supervision to employees so that they can use electrical equipment safely in the workplace.

This includes information about:

  • the systems of work and risk control measures used at the workplace
  • the electrical safety requirements at the workplace, including commercial and retail environments where public safety requirements are high
  • the process to raise concerns with the use of electrical equipment, including how and when to report damaged equipment
  • who is able to undertake inspection and testing of electrical equipment and installations such as someone who is competent or a licensed electrician

Review and maintain risk controls

To ensure that a workplace remains safe, and without risks to health and safety of employees, an employer should regularly review the risk controls in place. Risk controls should also be reviewed after an incident and whenever there is a change in work practice or work design such as a change of work environment.

Employers need to keep records of electrical safety maintenance programs, including any testing and tagging of equipment. These records should be made available for review and inspection.

Employer duties

Employers also have other duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. For more information on employer duties see:


Employers must also, so far as is reasonably practicable, consult with employees, contractors and any health and safety representatives about health and safety matters. This includes consultation when identifying or assessing hazards or risks and making decisions about risk control measures. For more information about the duty to consult, see:


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