Safety alert issued after electrician electrocuted at domestic property

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Tuesday, 1 September, 2020 - 12:00
Incidents & prosecutions

WorkSafe Victoria recently issued a safety alert about the risk of installing cables in older domestic properties where the electrical supply has not been de-energised and/or the integrity of existing electrical cable is not known.

The alert was issued following an incident in which a licenced electrician working at an older domestic property was fatally electrocuted.

The electrician was under the house, preparing to install a cable to a power point within the house. The electrical supply was not de-energised at the time.

The electrician had dropped a stringline inside the wall cavity, and was attempting to hook the stringline so the cable could be pulled up to the switchboard. The hook used was metal and came into contact with an existing live electrical cable.

It is believed the existing cable’s insulation was compromised, likely due to its age, and the metal hook came into contact with the live conductor.

The safety alert recommended a number of ways to control these risks:

  1. Develop a safe work method statement (SWMS) for the electrical work.

Electrical installation work is high-risk construction work (HRCW) when it is conducted on or near energised electrical installations or services.

An employer or self-employed person must prepare an SWMS for high-risk construction work (HRCW) before the work commences. The work must be performed in accordance with the SWMS.

If the HRCW changes or if there is an indication that control measures are not adequately controlling the risks, the SWMS must be reviewed and, if necessary, revised.

Note: The preparation of an SWMS meets the AS/NZS 4836 ‘Safe working on or near low-voltage electrical installations and equipment’ requirement to carry out an assessment of risks that have the potential to cause harm or damage at the worksite.

  1. Identify and assess the scope of works and assess the work area for electrical cables. Visually check the work area for any cables to ensure they appear to be in good condition and that there are no exposed connections or cables.
  2. De-energise the installation or part of the installation to eliminate the risk of an electrical shock, for example by removing the electricity service fuse. The removal and replacement of the service fuse should be done in accordance with Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) guidelines.
  3. Use appropriate signage: Once the service fuse is removed, lock out/tag out the main switch(es) or isolation devices.
  4. Verify the installation is de-energised: Treat the electrical installation as energised until testing confirms that de-energisation has been achieved. If the de-energised installation is left unattended, it is recommended that it is re-tested to ensure it is still de-energised before recommencing work.
  5. Use a safe system of work: Safe systems of work should be developed and followed along with risk controls, to reduce the risk to people undertaking:
    • removal and replacement of the service fuse
    • lock out and tag out of the main switch(es) and isolation points
    • verification of de-energisation process