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NEBOSH General Certificate No Substitute for Electrical Training
The NEBOSH General Certificate course is so comprehensive and lengthy in comparison to other accredited health and safety courses which are available that it is easy to think that the wealth of information taught during it is enough to make a person an expert in all aspects of workplace safety. The reality is that the NEBOSH General Certificate intends, as the name suggests, to provide a general overview of many different hazards and dangers to health that can be encountered in a typical place of work. This means that far from becoming an expert in each and every topic, delegates will receive an overview which makes them aware of the dangers, but not an expert. Even the NEBOSH Diploma qualification which drills down into even more depth is not enough to become an expert in a particular topic.
Electricity is Particularly Dangerous
One such topic which is a prime example is that of electricity and electrical safety. Whilst NEBOSH General Certificate training does a good job of covering the risks posed by electricity such as electrocution and fires, it would be extremely remiss to think that just because a person has attended and passed the assessment for the NEBOSH General Certificate qualification that they are now an expert in all things electrical. To be so, they will need to attend and undertake specialist electrical training which is far beyond the scope and intended purpose of the NEBOSH General Certificate.
The same can be said really of any of the other topics taught by the NEBOSH General Certificate. For example the safety issues regarding fire are covered quite extensively on the syllabus, but certainly not to the extent of a specific fire training course like the NEBOSH Fire Certificate. Even then, this is unlikely to be enough for some job roles. The job role and tasks which the individual will be responsible for will determine what level of knowledge and training is required in order to satisfy any criteria demanded for them being able to carry out the function safely and correctly without putting themselves or others in danger.
Electrical Health and Safety
Whilst electricity is essential for powering tools and equipment both in the workplace and in the home, it is also extremely dangerous and the potential risks can easily be forgotten or taken for granted because of its abundance. People are so used to simply plugging a machine into a socket, using it and then unplugging that they forget there is a serious risk of death or injury from electricity.
These hazards are both direct and indirect in nature. Directly, electricity can cause burns to body tissue, as well as respiratory failure if an organ such as the heart is damaged. Either of these situations can quickly result in death, and will depend upon conditions such as the size of the voltage and current that the body is exposed to. Electricity which flows through the body and causes conditions such as muscle spasms can cause indirect injuries for example falling from height, collapsing and hitting the head or pulling heavy objects down on top of themselves as they fall. A person who is unconscious is also vulnerable to risks such as drowning if the electric shock was caused by a leaking overhead pipe which is now causing the room to fill up with water, burning or smoke inhalation from a fire which has broken out as a result of sparks given off. In fact, the dangers to health and safety are practically endless when a person is rendered unconscious from an electrical shock, for example being eaten by a bear if the shock occurs from a faulty electrical generator out in the wilderness!
The common causes of electrical fires and shocks include damaged and poorly maintained equipment (e.g. bare wires), incorrect voltage supply (a particular risk if machinery is used in different countries), inadequate/no earthing, coming into contact with water, insufficient electrical testing (e.g. PAT testing), overheating, not understood or not followed a permit to work procedure which keeps electricity supply turned off whilst work takes place, and many more.
Electric Cable Health and Safety
Electricity provides a significant risk to the health and safety of people, whether it be in the home or at a place of work. With the introduction and adoption of wire-free electricity still some way off despite advances), this means that for the foreseeable future electricity will still need to be carried around by protective insulated cables. Whilst these provide suitable protection when functioning correctly and in good condition, they are vulnerable to damage which can then expose the bare wires beneath, creating the potential for electrical shocks, burns and fires.
A large number of cables are suitable only for indoor use and for relatively gentle wear and tear. However, many machines will be used outside, particularly in industries such as the construction industry, and the protection of the casing around the wires in an electrical cable may not be able to withstand the harsh conditions faced outdoors if it is not specifically designed for such an environment. This includes water from rain or wet ground, wearing against abrasive surfaces, chewed by animals such as squirrels, being run over by vehicles or walked over by feet, cut by sharp objects, damaged through bending, pulling, stretching etc and many more. It also needs to be taken into account that not only is it the cable for the particular piece of equipment that can be damaged, but also the cabling of any extension cables that are required when working outdoors.
Cables also pose a health and safety risk when they are not damaged, in the form of trip hazards which can cause people to fall and injure themselves, perhaps severely if they hit their head or break a bone when they land. A place of work such as an office often has a great deal of electrical cabling and wiring for equipment like telephones, photocopiers, vending machines, portable heaters or fans, computers etc. This makes the trip hazards posed by cables and wires a significant element of office safety and an issue to look out for when performing risk assessments.
On a construction site, overhead power cables which carry high voltage electricity can be hit by a construction site vehicle or underground cables can be struck when performing excavation work. Suitable precautions and comprehensive site surveys are essential therefore to help minimise the risk of an accident or incident occurring with electricity on a construction site.
Why Does the NEBOSH General Certificate Syllabus Cover Electricity?
The subject of electricity and electrical safety is just one of many key topic areas of the NEBOSH General Certificate syllabus, but is covered in quite a lot of detail because, like fire, electricity has the same combination of being:
- Extremely dangerous with high potential of fatalities
- Extremely common in that an incident can occur virtually anywhere in the workplace and be caused by a number of different factors
This combination means that an injury or worse from electricity can happen to anyone in the workplace at any time if certain actions are done (or not done) and suitable maintenance and regular inspections are not performed in a timely and competent manner.
The Course is Not Intended to Be Comprehensive and Complete
The NEBOSH General Certificate course is by no means designed to provide attendees with a detailed knowledge of how to perform certain electrical tasks such as re-wiring the light fittings for example. It is also not intended to even provide a thorough and comprehensive level of detail regarding every single electricity-related danger and potential electrical hazard. Instead, like other topics taught on the syllabus such as the fire safety section or the information on COSHH and hazardous substances, what it will provide delegates with is a very good level of information about the main risks and hazards associated with each type of danger.
Not only can this be put to great use in substantially reducing the probability of them causing or suffering harm to themselves or others nearby, but can also form a comprehensive basis for progressing onto further study in the particular area which can furnish them with more detailed and in-depth knowledge of that particular topic than a NEBOSH General Certificate course will give them.
Related NEBOSH General Pages and Articles:
Visit the NEBOSH General Certificate Pages section to find links to pages covering all manner of different aspects of the NEBOSH National General Certificate qualification such as what it entails, who it is for, what it will provide etc.