News & Views
21st January 2021
Switchboard arc flash burns incident on the Gold Coast prompts urgent safety warning
NECA would like to issue an urgent safety warning to electrical workers on the dangers of accessing live switchboards without adequately controlling the risks.
In an incident at a shopping centre at Ashmore on the Gold Coast on Tuesday this week, two electrical workers have received significant arc flash burns after working live on the centre’s switchboard. Both workers are in hospital, with one of the workers being in a critical condition.
While the exact details of what work they were performing is not yet known, the Queensland Electrical Safety Office (ESO) has commenced a comprehensive investigation into the incident.
NECA consistently advises our members that working in switchboards carries significant risks of injury or arc flashes due to the presence of high fault currents and that the work is often being carried out within a confined area.
Managing Arc Flash Incidents
A risk assessment is mandatory and a safe system of work for managing the risk of arc flash should always include:
electrically isolating nearby electrical equipment or installation before starting work, and ensuring it can't be reconnected while the work is being carried out
using insulated or non-conductive physical barriers to prevent inadvertent contact with energised parts
ensuring workers have appropriate knowledge and skills to perform the work safely
ensuring testing procedures are in place to prove parts are de-energised before work commences
ensuring people not required for the work are excluded from the area, by use of screens, barriers and signage
ensuring workers have tools, test equipment and PPE suitable for the rated level of fault current.
Advice to members
wherever possible it is preferable to turn off the power to the entire switchboard, even if this means rescheduling the work to another time.
workers always wear arc-rated clothing when doing any work on switchboards, irrespective of how small that work is.
always remember that working on or near live parts could result in death or injury.
Safety in our industry is of the utmost importance. To ensure workplace compliance, NECA has available Safety SWMS and Arc Rated Clothing at its online store here.
For more information or advice, contact our WHS team on 1300 361 099.