Electric shocks from hospital bed power cords

An alert about the hazards and risks associated with electric hospital bed power cords after an employee received a severe electric shock at a hospital.



WorkSafe has recently been notified of an incident involving a hospital employee receiving a severe electric shock from the power cord of an electric hospital bed.

The protective outer insulation of the power cord for the bed was damaged by the bed wheels after it was left to trail along the floor during a patient transfer. The damage exposed the powers cords electrical wires. The employee did not notice the damage to the cord. When they plugged the bed into a power outlet they received a large electric shock requiring immediate medical treatment.

Similar incidents have been reported at aged, disability and residential care facilities where electric beds are commonly in use.

Recommended ways to control risks

Duty holders should:

  • develop a system of work where power cords are stowed whilst transferring patients
  • develop a system for the visual inspection of electric bed power cords prior to bed movements
  • purchase electric beds with power cords that are elevated off the floor, coiled or retractable.
  • retrofit cable clips to the underside of the bed frame to enable cords to be lifted off the ground while transporting patients on beds
  • develop a system for the regular testing and tagging of electric bed power cords
  • review the location of power outlets to ensure that they are at a suitable height off the floor so that power cords are not located near bed wheels.

Legal duties

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, employers must, so far as reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees. This includes identifying risks to health or safety and eliminating or reducing those risks, so far as is reasonably practicable.

Employers must, as far as is reasonably practicable, provide or maintain plant or systems of work that are safe and without risks to health.

Employers must also ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that people other than employees are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the employer's conduct.

Employers must provide employees with the necessary information, instruction, training or supervision to enable them to do their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.

Employees must take reasonable care for his or her own health and safety and for the health and safety of persons who may be affected by the employees’ acts or omissions at a workplace.

Australian standard

  • Australian Standard AS/NZ 3200.2.38:1997 – Electrically Operated Hospital Beds
  • Australian Standard AS/NZ 3551:2012 – Management programs for medical equipment

Related information