'Work live' and risk your life

Electrical businesses, contractors and workers are being warned about the dangers of working on live switchboards or circuits, as WorkSafe inspectors crack down on electrical risks.


In addition to talking about the risks of working live, inspectors are also highlighting the need to ensure apprentices are adequately trained and supervised during WorkSafe's month long focus on electrical safety.

WorkSafe Acting Executive Director Health and Safety Paul Fowler has urged employers to ensure workers do not to attempt to 'save time' by not isolating systems before they commence work.

He said it was common for electrical workers to feel pressured by clients who want a job done quickly without affecting production.

"Electricians often report experiencing pressure from business clients to work live in order to avoid disruptions to trade or production," Mr Fowler said.

"But clients often don't fully appreciate the risks so we urge employers and contractors to look for alternatives, such as scheduling works during hours where the power supply can be shut down."

Mr Fowler said no matter how small or quick the task, the electricity should always be isolated and tested before work begins.

"No one should risk their life, or the lives of work mates, for the sake of saving time or inconvenience," Mr Fowler said.

Energy Safe Victoria Director of Energy Safety Paul Fearon has urged all contractors and supervisors to understand their obligations concerning electrical workers, especially apprentice, working live.

"Other than unavoidable testing and commissioning functions, all electrical work should be carried out on de-energised/isolated installations and equipment," he said.

"Worrying practices in the industry have been identified, such as the willingness of the electrical industry to perform live electrical work. These practices appear to be particularly prevalent in the commercially driven electrical contracting sector."

Three electricians have died at work in Victoria since 2016. A man in his late twenties died while working near a live electrical switchboard in Dandenong South on January 29, 2018.

In January 2016, a 24-year-old apprentice electrician died while working on external lights on the roof of a northern suburbs shop in Dallas. In August 2016, a 26-year-old apprentice electrician died while installing an alarm system on the roof of a Camberwell home.

Eleven incidents of workers suffering electric shocks on work sites have been reported to WorkSafe since January.

These include:

  • An electrician who suffered a shock in Hampton after grabbing a live cable which had been re-energised while he was out of the room.
  • A worker who made contact with a live wire as he pulled down a wall at a house in Sydenham.
  • A contractor working on the roof of a Clayton property who suffered an electric shock after pushing a cable back into the roof cavity.
  • An apprentice who touched a live wire when he reached in to help an electrician who was removing a panel from a faulty electric oven.

Tips for electricians to work safely:

  • Always de-energise and lock-out the switchboard or circuit to be worked on.
  • Always test to see all parts are de-energised before starting or restarting work.
  • If working on or near an energised system is necessary, ensure a Safe Work Method Statement is developed and adhered to.
  • Ensure apprentices are adequately supervised.
  • If the power cannot be turned off, reschedule the work to a time when the power can be isolated.