Switch off for safety’s sake

WorkSafe inspectors will focus on electrical safety this month to ensure employers keep workers safe from the deadly risks of working ‘live’ or near live electrical equipment.


Inspectors will be checking that risks are being managed and that young workers and apprentices are being properly trained and appropriately supervised on the job.

In the past 10 years nine workers have died after coming into contact with live electricity on construction sites, including seven aged under 30.

This includes a 19-year-old man who was electrocuted while installing an air-conditioner on the roof of a two-storey dwelling at Plumpton in January.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said working on live circuits or switchboards carried a potentially deadly risk.

She said young workers and apprentices were often particularly vulnerable because they lack skills and experience.

"Many clients, including homeowners, do not fully appreciate the dangers electricians face when power supplies are not shut down or isolated," Ms Nielsen said.

"Electricians can be placed under huge pressure to get a job done quickly and with as little inconvenience as possible for the client, but when it comes to safety employers must not compromise."

"Regardless of how small or quick a job may be, electricity should always be isolated and tested before any work begins."

Victoria's Director of Energy Safety Paul Fearon reminded employers that only appropriately trained and qualified electricians were able to carry out electrical installation work.

"Appropriate supervision must be provided to all workers regardless of their experience," Mr Fearon said.

"Don't become complacent when working in the vicinity of live electrical equipment, always test before you touch and never work live."

"While experience plays a big part in helping identify and head-off risks on the job, lack of experience isn't an excuse to cut corners, especially when it comes to your safety at work"

In addition to the January fatality, there have been 56 other electrical incidents reported to WorkSafe this year. Of these, two workers suffered serious burns and 38 received an electric shock.

On May 11, an electrician suffered critical burns when a live electrical switchboard exploded at Tullamarine.

On May 6, a 32-year old man suffered burns to his face, arm and forearm while checking a damaged underground cable at Clyde North.

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 near energised electrical equipment is necessary, ensure a Safe Work Method Statement is developed and adhered to.
  • Ensure apprentices are adequately trained and supervised.
  • If there is no scenario where power cannot be turned off, reschedule the work to a time when the power can be isolated.