WorkCover: Ensure safety in working around electricity and powerlines - 22.1.14

WorkCover NSW reminded workers to observe safety when working with electricity and powerlines after a recent analysis revealed that there had been two electrocutions and 14 electric shocks in a recent 12-month period.

The WorkCover analysis covers data from August 2012 to August 2013.

“In one instance, a worker was installing air-conditioning at a petrol station when the wiring he was working with was still energised and he received an electric shock. Tragically, he passed away in hospital,” said WorkCover NSW General Manager of Work Health and Safety Division, John Watson.

“In another case, a plasterer was installing a ceiling  fan when he accidentally cut through energised wiring receiving an electric shock which caused him to fall about 2.4 metres off  his ladder also causing bruising.”

Mr Watson encouraged businesses and workers to ensure safety.

“We want all workers to return home safely to their families and friends at the end of the day,” said Mr Watson. “But sadly this is sometimes not the case.”

“Working on or near electrical installations can be dangerous, and that’s why workers and businesses need to take precautions and always use a licensed electrician for all electrical installation work.”

Mr Watson said while all situations are different, there are basic ways that can be done to improve electrical safety.

“It’s so important that workers test before they touch. It sounds simple but it can be overlooked.

“Make sure you de-energise before you start work by identifying and isolating the source of electricity, and locking and tagging the switch.

“In conditions that involve exposing electrical equipment to moisture, heat vibration, mechanical damage, corrosive chemicals and dust, ensure that the electrical equipment is regularly tested and tagged and that the equipment is used in association with an RCD (Residual Current Device/Safety Switch).

He said special consideration should be taken when working near overhead and underground powerlines.

“You don’t need to come in contact with the powerline to result in electric shock or arc flash burns. It is important that workers, equipment, material and plant remain at safe distances from overhead and underground electric lines,” said Mr Watson.

Mr Watson also said they can and does prosecute businesses that fail to protect workers.

“Under work health and safety laws, workplaces must have systems in place to prevent workers being shocked or electrocuted,” he said.

WorkCover has prosecuted a heavy vehicle hire and haulage company after two workers received electric shocks while unloading construction materials underneath live powerlines.

“Incidents such as this one need not occur if work is conducted in planned way that takes into account the potential risks that need to be addressed. A safety plan should be established for all work involving high risk plant including the use of safe working distances between plant and high voltage powerlines,” said Mr Watson.

“In this case two men nearly lost their lives.”

Source: OHS News