Electrical Risk and Electrical Safety
An electrical risk is where a person or persons are at risk of death, shock or other serious injury caused directly or indirectly by electricity. Whilst there are many potential hazards associated with electricity predominant ones include:
- Contact with exposed live parts, causing electric shock and burns (for example exposed leads or other electrical equipment coming into contact with metal surfaces such as metal flooring or roofs)
- Electrical faults which could cause fires (for example decorative lighting)
- fire or explosion where electricity could be the source of ignition in a potentially flammable or explosive atmosphere (for example when spray painting).
Where and how electricity is used also impacts on the level of risk of injury. For example in wet conditions, the safety of electrical equipment can be undermined or when working with equipment near overhead powerlines. Portable electrical equipment must be maintained as per regulations as it is particularly liable to damage including plugs and sockets, electrical connections and cables. Extension leads which are used on a worksite to connect equipment and are moved around frequently can also be damaged easily.
PCBU/Electrical contractors must ensure their licence remains current and ensure that all electrical work is carried out by a licenced worker or a competent worker under strict supervision by a licenced electrical contractor (Refer to Electrical Safety Regulations 2013).
Electrical Safety and Emergency Rescue
Ensure that a Low Voltage (LV) Rescue Kit is kept on hand and in good condition ready for emergencies.
Check all items in the LV Rescue Kit are accounted for as follows:
- Insulated Gloves Class 0 (1000V)
- Insulated Crook (LV – tested to 15kV)
- Fire blanket (1.2m x 1.8m)
- Multi Trauma ( Burns) Dressing
- ‘Isolate Here’ sign
- Regularly check and maintain all emergency rescue equipment
- Carefully plan Electrical Work
Safe Work Procedures BEFORE Starting any Electrical Work
Complete a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) to identify hazards onsite before unloading tools, equipment, and materials.
- Check through all relevant Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) to confirm that all hazards identified onsite match the ones found in the SWMS. Hazards must be controlled by implementing the relevant Safe Work Method Statement for each task.
- Make the required changes to the SWMS to ensure all hazards are controlled during work tasks.
- Complete a pre-start safety check on all selected tools and equipment before using them including:-
- Check the metre box/switchboard is securely mounted and in good condition fit for use.
- Check all RCD units are adequate for the type of work performed and the demand load. All RCD units should be time/current tested every 3 months. Operate the RCD tripping test button before using the RCD unit ensuring it is safe for workers to use.
- Check all flexible power leads are of suitable type and length for the switchboard and RCD units, and are in good condition and are fit for use.
- Check selected tools and equipment are in good working order and fit for use.
- Check the electrical test and tag dates on selected tools and equipment are still current.
- Check that all flexible power leads running out of the metre box are correctly inserted and not at risk of being cut or damaged from the lid closing on it.
- Check all cordless battery units and chargers are in good condition and are fit for use. Follow the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for battery maintenance, operation and storage.
- Check all selected tool attachments are in good condition and fit for use not being a risk to health and safety.
- Use insulated hooks to keep leads up off the ground eliminating the risk of trips, slips and falls and the risk of damaging the leads.
- Check all Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is in good condition and is fit for use. Ensure that there is sufficient stock to complete the work safely.
- DO NOT perform any LIVE WORK under any circumstances, unless it is approved according to the Electrical Safety Regulations 2013. Completing a Risk Assessment is mandatory for live work.
- Treat all existing electrical cabling and parts as if it were LIVE until it is de-energised and tested prior to starting any electrical work.
- Make sure no one will be put at risk of electrocution, electric shock, explosions or fire due to the work you are about to perform.
- Do not work in adverse weather conditions (such as rain or extreme wind) to ensure you or other workers are not put at risk to electrocution, electric shock, fire, or explosions due to the work you are performing.
- Before using ladders check that they are in good condition and fit for purpose. Platform ladders are recommended when a worker requires two hands free to carry out designated tasks.
- DO NOT use ladders made of conductive materials when working on or near energised cabling or LIVE parts.
- Do not depend on rubber boots or rubber safety mats or gloves as the only control measure to eliminate the risk of electrocution or electric shock. Practice safe work procedures at all times.
- Do not energise installations that have defects, or that have not been examined and tested by an approved licenced electrical contractor and/or inspector from the relevant electrical supplier.
- Plan to Work Safe ….so that you arrive Home Safe! Follow emergency rescue procedures as required.
- Ensure that at least one person is trained to use the LV Rescue equipment and should also be trained in First Aid procedures.
- Report all incidents to the relevant Workplace Health and Safety authorities.
Disclaimer: This article provides general information only and should not be used as a substitute for seeking professional legal advice for your specific circumstances. The contents of the article are correct based on available information at the date of writing. However there may be subsequent decisions of courts or tribunals on the matter covered in the article which could mean that the contents are no longer accurate.
Safe Use of Portable Electrical Tools and Equipment on the Construction Site
Portable Electrical Tools and Equipment on a Construction Site refers to any item or equipment used on the site which has a lead and plug and is connected to the mains supply and can be moved around. The risk involved in the usage of Portable Electrical Tools and Equipment varies depending on such things as type, age and amount of usage on site. Portable Electrical Equipment plugs and sockets, cables, extension leads, Residual Current Device -RCD units and electrical connections for example are used constantly and consequently run a greater risk of damage.
A Person Conducting Business Undertaking (PCBU) who has the management and control of the electrical tools and equipment must ensure that it is safe to use. There are some common measures that meet with regulatory requirements which must be taken to control electrical risks. Some of these include:
• Ensuring only suitably licenced or registered electricians carry out electrical work
• Providing safe and suitable electrical tools and equipment including portable electrical equipment
• Inspecting leads for damage and removing damaged leads from the construction site
• Ensuring that electrical extension leads, portable equipment tools and equipment leads, fixed plant leads have been tested and tagged
• Ensuring that durable tags are used to record Test and Tag dates, and ensuring that the Test and Tag period is clear and legible.
• Providing enough electrical outlet sockets using RCD units and ensuring that piggy backing double adapters are not used under any circumstances.
• Using battery powered tools where possible
• Keeping the construction site tidy, arranging leads to minimise damage including the use of electrical safety hangers
• Following WHS Regulations when using Residual Current Devices (RCD’s) (Safety Switches) to protect workers using Portable Electrical Tools and Equipment
Understanding Requirements for Testing and Tagging Electrical Tools and Equipment
On a typical construction site, trade contractors may require test and tag checks for up to fifteen or more electrical tool and equipment items. Testing and Tagging is a WHS Legislative requirement for all business owners (PCBU’s), and it is especially important in the construction industry. Test and Tagging must be carried out by a certified technician or licensed electrician who has a verification of competency (VOC) and appropriate training, and is required every three months in the construction industry. The electrical tools and equipment must be tested by using a ‘pass-fail’ type portable equipment tester and all visual inspections of the portable electrical equipment is to comply with (AS-NZS 3760:2010). Durable tags must be used to ensure that the Test and Tag period is clear, legible and easily identifiable. Residual Current Devices – RCD units are extremely important in keeping workers safe, and must be a priority test and tag item. Business owners are required to keep accurate records of all electrical tools and equipment that have been tested and tagged every 3 months.
A trip switch/safety switch is designed to cut off the power supply when electrical harm is detected and provide protection for workers against receiving an electric shock whilst working. Therefore it is critical that workers do a push button test of their RCD units daily, before using electrical equipment to ensure that the trip switch/safety switch is functioning correctly.
This information is for general information only and does not replace WHS, OHS, OSH legislative compliance requirements. This information must be considered in conjunction with other relevant WHS Codes of Practice. The contents have been based on available information at the time of writing. The information is subject to change at any time as a result of decisions made by courts or tribunals.
Commonwealth of Australia 2014
Safe Work Australia
On-the-job training is important in any workplace but especially in the high-risk construction industry!
April 2016Principle contractors/PCBU’s and sub-contractors must ensure that they keep themselves and their work team safe and that they are meeting work health and safety legislative requirements.
Construction Safety Wise has a training arm through its consultancy and we want to give you some simple tips and suggestions to assist in ensuring that your work-site is safe.
- Conduct regular pre-start meetings, tool box meetings and on the job training specifically for identifying hazards, assessing risks, and controlling the risks. Give the workers opportunity to voice their workplace concerns.
- Organise/conduct specific training sessions for:
- Following Work Health and Safety – Safe Work Procedures
- Understanding roles and responsibilities and Duty of Care according to WHS Legislation
- Safe Access and Egress of site
- Using and Understanding Signage and Emergency Evacuation Plans
- Site Safety Rules and General Housekeeping
- Risk Management Tools
- Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) and Job Safety Analysis (JSA)
- Alcohol and Drug Policies
- Working at Height
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Understanding Work Health and Safety Laws relevant to your State or Territory
- Health and Hygiene
- Hazardous Manual Tasks
- Hazardous Chemicals
- Noise Problems in the Workplace
- Machine and Equipment Safety
- Working in Confined Spaces
- Emergency Procedures and Emergency Equipment
- Traffic Management
- Site Security
- Reporting and Record keeping – use of forms and registers
- Claims Management (workers compensation) and Rehabilitation back to Work
- Be a proactive PCBU/Supervisor and watch your team to ensure that they can and are implementing safe work practices and correct them if they are going about their tasks in an unsafe or dangerous manner
- Keep accurate records of incidents, hazards and control measures.
- Encourage workers to ask questions if they are unsure how to perform a task safely.
- Ensure that everyone is familiar with first aid and emergency response procedures.
- Ensure that there is appropriate signage, barriers and clear rules and regulations for the worksite.
- Ensure that your workers are wearing correct PPE.
- Be sensitive to cultural and language differences and ensure that the safe work procedures and instructions are easy to understand and implement.
Our Certified Construction WHS Trainer has over 25 years’ experience working in the building industry. For further assistance for your Work Health and Safety Training needs contact 1300 881 928 now.
Asbestos Alert for Home Renovators
Asbestos is a lethal carcinogen and inhalation of the fibres is causing increasing rates of respiratory diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancers and mesothelioma. Exposure to asbestos remains a high risk in Australia and the nation has one of the highest reported asbestos related diseases per capita in the world. Recent reports indicate increased risk to Do It Yourself (DIY) Home Renovators / Owner Builders. Not only have the renovators been exposed to the deadly asbestos fibres, but women and young children have developed asbestos related diseases later on. It can be as simple as disturbing asbestos during demolition or the renovation process. The Australian Mesothelioma Registry’s 2014 Report shows that out of 350 people who were diagnosed with mesothelioma where information about asbestos exposure was present, 39.14% of those were categorised as non-occupational exposure. Of these 37.2% were home renovators or owner builders and out of that percentage 33% were women.
As a guideline any house that was either built or underwent renovation in the period between 1948 and prior to 1990 would more than likely contain asbestos. This could be in products such as glue, ceiling and wall linings, hardflex soffit or eaves, asbestos cement downpipes, floor underlay, window putty, mortar and cladding. So whilst renovating or being an owner builder may be your preferred option as it saves you money, take a precautionary approach and find out about any risk before you start. There are specific standards and compliance regulations for the construction industry and these can vary slightly from state to state. Home renovators / owner-builders must comply with public health laws when removing non-friable asbestos-containing materials. If you lack the approved training in asbestos removal, do not touch it, leave it to the professionals and keep you and your family safe.
If you discover Asbestos in your home
Do not try and cut it or drill into it! Do not release it into the atmosphere! Do not saw or use a sander on it! Do not sweep, dust or vacuum it! Do not scrape, clean or scrub it! Do not dismantle it! Do not blast it with water! Do not demolish it! Do not dump it.
Do not use tools on asbestos materials as this will cause the asbestos fibres to become airborne. This includes power tools such as angle grinders, circular saws, electric sanders and drills, high pressure water blasters or compressed air.
References and more information
Construction Safety Wise Articles - An Introduction
At Construction Safety Wise our focus is on National and State and Territory Safety Issues specific to the building and construction industry. Additionally, wherever possible we will keep you up to date on all new and relative issues which impact on Work Health and Safety on construction work sites.
In Australia, Work Health and Safety specific to the construction industry is regulated by states and territories. Recently we have had a move towards a National Harmonisation of Work Health and Safety Legislation across all states and territories. From this process the WH&S industry bodies developed the Model WHS Regulations,
which were created under the Intergovernment Agreement for Regulatory and Operational Reform in OHS.
The Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012–2022 has identified the building and construction industry as a priority industry for action. During the first five years of the Australian Strategy, Safe Work Australia which is our National WHS Regulatory Body for all jurisdictions, continue to focus on reducing traumatic injury fatalities, and injuries and disorders in the building sector. The goal is to work and deliver these outcomes through strong partnerships with the construction industry, unions, the corporate and business sector and the community.
The model WHS Regulations were finalised in November 2011. The model WHS Regulations are model provisions only. To be legally binding they need to be enacted or passed by Parliament in each jurisdiction.
As a Construction Industry Contractor, Employer or Worker you should be conscious of the jurisdictional WHS requirements in your state or territory. That is why at Construction Safety Wise we make sure all of our documentation is State and Territory specific, so that you can be assured of having the right documents for the right location.
In each state and territory there is still a specific body dedicated for regulating the safety industry.
For information about laws applying to you and your workplace, contact your work health and safety regulator. They are listed below:
Australian Capital Territory
New South Wales
For more information and Resources on Work Health and Safety specific to the Construction Industry try these links:
Model Code of Practice - Construction Work
Model Code of Practice - Demolition Work