News & Views

9th June 2021

Warning to Industry After Fatalities

I was saddened to hear of the two deaths related to electrical incidents in recent weeks.

One was a man who came into contact with live wires while gardening at his home. An earlier incident involved the death of an apprentice working on a lift.

The death of any person is a tragedy, but this was an apprentice electrician, someone who should have been kept safe. These are the least experienced and therefore the most vulnerable on any worksite.

The investigation into this incident is ongoing, but my message to all is that employers of electrical workers must ensure effective supervision. This is not negotiable.

Employers of electrical workers must ensure that:

  • the organisation has clear and robust procedures in place to identify electrical hazards and eliminate or mitigate risks
  • appropriate training is provided so that workers understand how to do the job safely;
  • they understand what is ‘effective supervision’ of electrical workers, and in particular, apprentices.

ESV has defined effective supervision as:

  • being present at the site of the electrical work to the extent necessary, to ensure that the work is being correctly performed, and carried out in accordance with the Electricity Safety Act and any of the regulations relating to the installation and operation of electrical installations
  • being aware of the details of the electrical work being performed and giving detailed instructions and directions with respect to the electrical work.

More information on your responsibilities as a supervisor are on the ESV website.

No one should be working live. There is no reason for any electrical worker to work live, even highly experienced A-grade electricians.

ESV has been working hard to ensure apprentices understand the importance of lock out, tag out through our LOTO Kit program. We recently concluded a four year program, supplying first year electrical apprentices across Victoria with a LOTO kit including locks, tags and insulated gloves. While the program was successful, feedback showed that many supervisors could have taken a bigger role in encouraging the practice of lock out, tag out.

Last January, an A-grade electrical worker was rushed to hospital with severe burns to his legs. He was working alone on a main switchboard preparing for the connection of a cable to a circuit breaker. There was an arc flash and a fire which caused the man’s burns. The incident is under investigation, but this man was working near live parts. Never Work Live It is not worth the risk and it is the responsibility of every registered electrical contractor and electrical worker, to make sure appropriate systems of work are in place to enable this practice. There is no deadline nor demand from a customer that is worth electrocution. De-energise before work begins – it’s that simple. The man in this case is lucky. He is alive.

While I believe most of the industry understand, one day, I hope the message gets through to those who think working live is still okay.

Marnie Williams

Director of Energy Safety & CEO Energy Safe Victoria

www.esv.vic.gov.au