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How is labelling improving electrical safety?

There are around 3.1 million accidents at work in the EU annually, over 3,000 of them fatal.

The EU rate for fatal work accidents caused by electrocution1 is 30 times higher than that for non-electrical accidents,2 leading to calls in the EU Parliament for particular attention to be paid to electrical safety and the prevention of electrical accidents in the workplace.

Already in place is Vision Zero - an EU Commission initiative seeking to eliminate work-related deaths by compelling employers to increase awareness of risks that lead to workplace accidents and injuries.3 But a shift in the electricity sector towards the decentralisation of processes and work-forces into smaller, dispersed units has created issues in alerting employees to potential electrical hazards.4

One impact of this is lower occupational safety and health (OSH) awareness and culture, and fewer resources to manage its delivery. In addition, the communication and enforcement of good OSH practice across dispersed workforces is considered difficult. But it's not just electricians who are at risk.4

Understanding the dangers of electricity

Across the EU, there is a high rate of electrical accidents among workers other than electricians. Indeed, research shows most fatalities in electrical accidents occur to workers carrying out activities not related to specific electrical works.5  But that's hardly surprising.

Current OSH legislation requires that information and training on electrical hazards is only compulsory for those workers who perform electrical work (electricians). As such, other workers (e.g. general maintenance, IT staff, equipment installers etc ) hardly receive any training on the dangers of electricity.5

This strongly suggests the need to provide accurate label printing and and ensure that information in-situ is as clearly visible as possible, to emphasise electrical hazards and prevent dangerous mistakes being made.

Mitigating human error

Research shows that human errors in electrical safety management play a major role in accidents,5 with 80% of electrical accidents due to human factors.6

Most electrical accidents occur for two reasons. The first is people working on equipment they think is dead but is live. The second is working on equipment that is known to be live, but those working on it do not have adequate training or have not taken adequate precautions.6

A lack of awareness and signage is also a factor in the ability of employees to accurately perceive risks.7 So how do you ensure that employees have sight of the safety information they need to avoid electrical hazards?
A printed label with exclamation points is being used as a hazard marker on electrical plugs. A hand is seen reaching for the cable that has been secured by a safety engineer or electrician.

What is electrical safety and its importance?

The EU's framework directive on Safety and Health at Work states that employers have the legal obligation to evaluate all risks to the health and safety of workers and take the corresponding preventative and protective measures. This includes risks arising from the use of electric equipment and electrical installations.8

The directive says that - in order to avoid risk and help combat electrical hazards at the source - employers must give 'appropriate instructions' to workers, implement measures that improve the level of protection and integrate those measures into the activities being undertaken.

Other directives state that employers have a legal obligation to guarantee that workplaces meet minimum OSH requirements for electrical workplace installations9  - and that conspicuous warning signs must be placed in hazardous areas.10

EU regulations specify that the effectiveness of any signs or labels should not be adversely affected by bad design, incorrect positioning or a poor state of repair. To ensure effective use, they should be maintained, checked, repaired and, if necessary, replaced on a regular basis to ensure that they retain their functional qualities. 10

How professional labelling improves electrical safety

One simple way to ensure that appropriate 'at-source' instructions are clear and that hazards are avoided is through the clear labelling of cables and electrical equipment.

While handwritten labels are technically compliant, creating them is time-consuming and the materials used are often not robust or long-lasting. Over time they can deteriorate, meaning equipment is no longer safely labelled, which not only increases the risk of accidents – but also increases the time and cost spent replacing them.

As a result, mobile label printers have become essential tools that enable electricians to create professional, durable labels for cables, conduits, switches, fuse boxes and equipment panels in the field.

To ensure that workers are alert to electrical hazards, it’s important to choose labels that come in high-visibility colours to cover multiple applications and make information as clear as possible.

But we also recommend that the labels you use should be robust enough to meet the demands of tough working environments, with a high level of resistance to abrasion, temperature extremes, water, chemicals and fading. Because the longer labels last in good condition, the lower the risk of electrical hazards, the less frequently you’ll have to change them.

Discover how Brother's range of professional electrician label printers make life on-site safer and easier.


1. ec.europa.eu (Eurostat): "Statistics explained - Accidents at work statistics" - November 2020
2. europarl.europa.eu: "Question for written answer E-001413/2021"
3.  European Commission: "EU strategic framework on health and safety at work 2021-2027 Occupational safety and health in a changing world of work" - June 2021
4. European Agency for Safety and Health at Work / European Risk Observatory: "Green Jobs, new risks? New and emerging risks to occupational safety and health in the electricity sector (Workshop for European Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee ‘Electricity’)"
5. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health: "Risk Profiling from the European Statistics on Accidents at Work (ESAW) Accidents′ Databases: A Case Study in Construction Sites" - December 2019
6. oshwiki.eu: "Electricity" - (Ivan Božič, Institute of Occupational Safety, Slovenia)
7. ESENER: "Workplace risk assessments carried out regularly, by country, 2014-2019"
8. European Agency for Safety and Health at Work's Framework Directive 89/391/EEC: "Improvements in the safety and health of workers at work"
9. EU Directive 89 /654/EEC: "Minimum safety and health requirements for the workplace"
10. EU Directive 92/58/EEC: "The minimum requirements for the provision of safety and/or health signs at work"

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