SMSTS Course Syllabus - Electricity
One of the areas which is given particular attention on the syllabus of an SMSTS course is the topic of electricity. In fact, electrical safety is covered in many health and safety courses, not just those focusing on construction site safety, due to its presence in just about every place of work. Electricity can cause serious injury or death to a person in a number of different ways, which is one reason as to why it poses such a threat.
For starters, electricity can cause burns or cause a heart attack if the current is sufficiently high. Even a low level of current can produce a shock which causes a person to recoil or knocks them off balance, which could lead to a fall if they are working at height, or an injury if they end up stumbling into a nearby object such as knocking a free-standing storage cupboard over which then falls on them or the items spill out onto them.
The speed of electricity is one of its characteristics that makes it so dangerous. Coming into contact with a bare wire by either touching it directly with the skin or it being conducted through a metal object will result in a virtually instantaneous electric shock, making it impossible to react in time to prevent it once contact has been made. This is why prevention is so critical when it comes to electrical safety in the home or in a place of work.
In fact, direct contact does not even need to be made. Electricity has the potential to arc (jump) to a material that comes near to a cable. The distance will depend on conditions such as the level of voltage and atmospheric conditions, but is a significant risk on a construction site where highly conductive metal machinery parts such as cranes and excavator buckets will come close to electricity cables and power lines.
As well as directly causing death and injury, electricity can also be dangerous by causing a fire or explosion. An electrical spark can ignite flammable dust or gas and explode; with one of the most common examples on a construction site being a spark from the static electricity on a metal fuel storage tank where fuel for the machinery and equipment is contained.
The Site Management Safety Training Scheme SMSTS course syllabus also covers excavations, which is relevant to the risk from electricity as the source of an electric shock is not limited to overhead power lines, but can also come from electrical cables buried underground which are struck by a person or the metal tools they are in contact with whilst digging down and excavating.