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Warning over electrical safety in mines

Thursday, 6 December, 2012 - 11:00
Industry news

WorkSafe Victoria recently issued a safety warning to mine operators on how to implement safety systems and install protective devices on electrical apparatus to prevent electric shock and electrocution.

The warning comes following 12 reported incidents of mine employees receiving electric shocks and flash burns from exposure to live electrical apparatus in Victoria since 1 January 2012.

For the majority of these incidents, mine operators reported that workers experienced ‘minor tingles’. However, the contributing factors identified indicate the incidents could have resulted in serious injuries and possible fatalities.

Common contributing factors across the reported incidents include: working on live electrical equipment without standard operating procedures; the use of faulty electrical equipment; and inadvertent contact with ‘live’ electrical equipment near water or in damp situations.

The mine operators all had some safety systems in place, including electrical inspection and testing regimes. However, all reported incidents could have been prevented had appropriate control measures been in place.

The safety alert said mine operators must ensure that all electrical hazards are identified and risks controlled, and risk control measures include:

  • the installation and use of residual current devices (safety switches)
  • electrical inspection and testing regimes that are appropriate to the working environment and electrical equipment
  • use of appropriately rated Ingress Protection (IP) rated equipment
  • access restrictions to live electrical apparatus
  • use of qualified electrical personnel when performing electrical work
  • site-specific training including site authorisations and the use of permits and lock out/tag out systems
  • implementation of standard operating procedures when fault finding, switching and isolating
  • use of appropriately rated personal protective equipment including gloves, face shield, full length clothing, footwear and rubber mats.

The safety alert recommended following basic precautions for all electrical work, including electrical testing, fault finding and resetting tripped circuit breakers:

  • ensure a test is carried out to confirm the condition of the installation and positive confirmation of isolations (i.e. test before you touch)
  • ensure appropriate protective equipment including protective clothing is utilised
  • ensure that the testing equipment is appropriate for the voltage that is to be tested.