Working on energised plant

Maintenance and repair workers are involved in 60% of Victoria's plant-related injuries and fatalities. This page has guidance which can help employers eliminate or control risks to persons performing maintenance or repair work on energised plant.


What is energised plant

Energised plant is plant that functions through the use of energy. Energy can remain in an item of plant after the isolation of energy sources. Energy that remains in plant following isolation is known as stored energy and includes:

  • electricity, including mains, solar and generator
  • heat
  • steam
  • fluids under pressure, such as water, air or hydraulic oil
  • stored energy such as batteries, accumulators, capacitors, springs and flywheels
  • gravity
  • radiation
  • static, kinetic, rotational and potential energy

Performing maintenance or repair work on energised plant has significant risks. Employees and contractors will be exposed to health and safety hazards such as electric shock, burns, cuts and crush injuries if stored energy in an item of plant has not been properly isolated or otherwise controlled.

Plant should be isolated, locked out, tagged out and, where reasonably practicable, de-energised before work starts. WorkSafe has guidance on its website about isolating, de-energising, locking out and tagging out plant.

If a hazard assessment has confirmed plant must have energy during maintenance or repair work, employers should have systems in place to ensure the work can proceed safely. The guidance on this page can help employers put those systems in place and reduce risks from working on energised plant. This information may also benefit managers and supervisors, employees, health and safety representatives (HSRs) and maintenance and repair workers.

Note: Guidance on this page does not cover work on electrical systems such as high-voltage power lines and generators. Guidelines for those tasks are available on Energy Safe Victoria's website.

Employer duties for work on energised plant

Employers have a duty to provide and maintain a safe working environment. As an employer, you should thoroughly assess whether the plant must be energised while work takes place. Wherever reasonably practicable, work on energised plant should be avoided. A series of steps later in this guidance can help you ensure that only essential repair and maintenance tasks take place on energised plant.

Information, training, instruction and supervision

As an employer, you must provide information, instruction, training and supervision to persons undertaking maintenance and repair work on energised plant so they can perform the work safely and without risks to their health. Workers must receive training in order to maintain competency in safe systems of work and be able to competently identify the plant's energy sources, range of movement and energy controls. Workers should also have the skills and knowledge to assess hazards, control associated risks and perform their work safely.

Consultation with employees

You must consult with employees, any HSRs for the designated area and contractors when:

  • identifying or assessing hazards or risks to health and safety at your workplace
  • making decisions about the measures to control identified risks to health and safety
  • making decisions about procedures for resolving health and safety issues
  • proposing changes to the workplace, the types of plant, substances or safe work practices performed at the workplace

Identifying hazards and controlling risks

As an employer or self-employed person, you have a duty to identify and eliminate hazards and risks, so far as is reasonably practicable. If you cannot eliminate risks you must control risks, so far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure work on energised plant can take place safely.

The hierarchy of control

The hierarchy of control can help you control risks associated with working on energised plant. The hierarchy of control ranks methods of controlling risks, from the highest and most effective level of protection to the lowest and least effective.

The following steps show how to use the hierarchy of control to eliminate or control risks from working on energised plant.

Permit to work

Employers must provide appropriate permit to work systems for plant exposed to an electrical hazard. Permit to work systems help avoid accidental energising of plant that has been isolated and locked out and tagged out but not physically disconnected from the electrical supply and de-energised.

Before issuing a permit to work you should have developed an effective safe system of work and put in place appropriate risk controls to control the identified hazards.

You should issue a permit to work once all risk management steps have been confirmed as complete and it has been determined that the work can be undertaken safely. A permit to work should include details about the type of work to be done, the hazards that have been identified and the risk controls put in place so the work can take place safely.

WorkSafe's checklist for working on an item of energised plant includes a permit to work procedure and is available on the WorkSafe website.

Steps to follow before performing any work on energised plant

If it is necessary to work on energised plant, all energy sources must be properly controlled before maintenance and repair tasks are carried out. You must perform an assessment to determine that the necessary risk controls are in place and that the work can proceed safely.

As an employer, you should apply the following risk management steps before allowing any maintenance or repair work on energised plant:

Assess that work can be done safely

Review regularly

It is important to regularly review and update hazard and risk controls for work on energised plant. Employers must review and, if necessary, revise the hazard and risk controls:

  • before any alteration to the plant
  • before any change to the way the plant is used or its associated systems of work, including a change in the item of plant's location
  • if new or additional information about hazards or risks relating to the plant or its systems of work becomes available
  • after a notifiable incident involving the plant or its associated system of work
  • if, for any other reason, the risk controls do not adequately control the risks
  • after an appropriate request from an HSR

You should also review your hazard and risk controls and make sure they are appropriate before using an item of plant for the first time.

Standards Australia

Standards Australia provides Australian Standards information relating to the safety and reliability of a range of products. The following Australian Standards may be of benefit when identifying and controlling risks from working on energised plant:

  • AS/NZS 40204.1204:2019: Safety of machinery – Electrical equipment of machines – General requirements (IEC 60204-1:2016 (ED. 6.0) MOD)
  • AS 4024.1-2014 Series - Safety of Machinery
  • ISO 12100:2010 Safety of machinery - General principles for design - Risk assessment and risk reduction

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