Electric shock happens when a person becomes part of an electrical circuit and the current flows through their body. When an electric shock kills someone it is called electrocution.

Accidents and deaths can also happen when equipment becomes 'live' due to electrical faults, lack of maintenance, or short circuits.

Electrical accidents are usually caused by a combination of factors such as:

  • lack of training or supervision
  • unsafe work practices
  • equipment not properly installed, maintained, tested and tagged
  • a hazardous work environment, where electrical hazards may not be recognised

Electrocution often occurs when people misjudge heights and distances between the ground and overhead wires when carrying equipment like poles and ladders, or operating equipment with height extension such as cranes. Remember, 'Look Up and Live'. Doing maintenance work on live electrical circuits is another common cause of electrocution.

General safety precautions

  • Apprentices, trainees and work experience students must be supervised at all times by a qualified worker
  • Only licensed electrical workers can legally do electrical work. An unqualified person must not be asked to do electrical work
  • Keep powered tools and equipment in safe working order through inspection and preventative maintenance programs
  • Disconnect and report faulty tools and appliances - for example: frayed cords or broken power points. Even after a piece of electrical equipment, appliance or machine has been disconnected from the power source, it may still partially operate. This is because of stored energy within the equipment. After disconnecting the power source, activate the machine or appliance to release the stored energy.
  • Always switch off tools and appliances at the power point before pulling out the plug
  • Keep electrical cords off the floor to reduce the risk of damage from dragging, contact with sharp objects or contact with water. A damaged electrical cord can cause electrocution
  • Know the location of your main electricity supply
  • Check the location of overhead wires and stand clear of any fallen power lines.
  • Use your appliance properly. Read the instruction booklet and follow all instructions.
  • Electricity and water don't mix. Bare feet and wet skin lower the body's resistance to electricity. Keep electrical appliances and electrical leads away from water and wet areas.
  • Don't overload circuits and fuses by using too many appliances from the one power point. Don't use double adaptors to 'piggy back' plugs. Use a power board with individual switches
  • Employees who use portable electrical equipment at workplaces must be protected against earth leakage by a Residual Current Device (RCD), also known as a safety switch


Students can complete the following Electricity activities: