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Electrical risks

Electricity has the potential to seriously injure and kill.

Electrical hazards exist in contact with exposed live parts, faults which could cause fire or explosions where an electrical fault is the source of ignition.

Sectors of the jurisdiction who perform electrical work on or near energised electrical equipment, including electrical installation, use and maintenance of electrical equipment need to be alert to the risks associated with that work.

Comcare's electrical safety campaign 'Stay Safe in the Workplace' concluded on 30 September 2014. Materials and tools are available for your workplace help manage electrical hazards.

Risk

Electrocution incidents can be fatal, while non-fatal shocks can result in serious and permanent burn injuries to skin, internal tissues and damage to the heart depending on the length and severity of the shock.

Electric shocks from faulty electrical equipment may also lead to related injuries, including falls from ladders, scaffolding or other elevated work platforms. Other injuries or illnesses may include muscle spasms, palpitations, nausea, vomiting, collapse and unconsciousness.

Those working with electricity may not be the only ones at risk. Poor electrical installation and faulty electrical appliances can lead to electric shock to others at or near the workplace.

Although we speak mainly of dynamic electricity (i.e. an electric current), static electricity, the accumulation of charge on a surface as a result of two surfaces rubbing together can also cause a static electric shock which can be painful but normally non-life threatening.  The trouble with static electricity is if there is flammable or combustible liquids or gases that (depending on their flash point) ignite causing explosion or fire.

Remedy

Dependant on the context and conditions, but may include for example:

  • Ensure only appropriately licensed or registered electricians carry out electrical work
  • Switch off electricity where possible before working on equipment
  • Ensure electrical equipment is in good working order (testing and tagging)
  • Use battery operated tools rather than mains power tools where possible
  • Remove damaged, unsafe electrical equipment or cords from the workplace
  • Ensure tag out and isolation procedures are in place and used
  • Use residual current devices (or safety switches) with portable equipment (as per the WHS Regulations)
  • Don't overload power sockets. Use power boards not double adaptors
  • Meet electrical safety standards

Resources

Information sourceWhat it contains
Electrical Safety campaign highlight reportThe electrical safety campaign ran from July to September 2014.  As well as providing information on sources of risk some workplaces underwent inspections associated with the campaign. The highlight report provides a summary of the results of the campaign.
Austrade - Electrical contractor safety program guideThis guide takes you through the stages of procurement where aspects of health and safety must be considered, including the roles and responsibilities of the client, contractor and worker.
Safe Work Australia - Code of Practice: How to Manage Work Health and Safety RisksThis Code provides practical guidance for persons who have duties under the WHS Act and Regulations to manage risks to health and safety.
Part 4.7 of the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011Describes general electrical safety in workplaces and energised electrical work. Includes meanings of terms, inspection and testing of electrical equipment and work on energised equipment
Safe Work Australia - Code of Practice: Managing Electrical risks in the workplace This Code provides practical guidance for PCBUs on managing electrical risks in the workplace. It applies to all workplaces where a PCBU:
  • has management or control of electrical equipment, including electrical installations, or
  • carries out electrical work on or near energised electrical equipment, including electrical installations.
Safe Work Australia - Fact Sheet – Electrical risks at the workplaceThis fact sheet provides general guidance for PCBUs and workers on managing electrical risks at the workplace. It does not cover electrical risks arising from overhead or underground electric lines. Includes general duties and types of risks
Covers general duties, risks, explains 'hostile environment', inspection and testing requirements and use of residual current devices
Part 4.4 of the WHS Regulations 2011: FallsSpecific information on responsibilities managing risks of falls in the WHS Regulations
Part 4.3 of the WHS Regulations 2011: confined spacesSpecific information on responsibilities managing risks of work concerning confined spaces in the WHS Regulations
Chapter 6 of the WHS Regulations 2011: construction workSpecific information on responsibilities managing risks of construction work
Safe Work Australia - Codes of practice: Managing the work environment and FacilitiesRisk management strategy for managing the work environment and facilities

Even the briefest contact with electricity at 50 volts for alternating current (V a.c.) or 120 volts for direct current (V d.c.) can have serious consequences to a person's health and safety therefore all incidents involving electric shock are notifiable to Comcare.

Why? - a dangerous incident is defined as "meaning an incident in relation to a workplace that exposes a worker or any other person to a serious risk to a person's health or safety emanating from an immediate or imminent exposure to electric shock".

Notifications

Information sourceWhat it contains
Incident notification - Part 3, Section 35 to 37 of the Work, Health and Safety Act 2011The legislative requirements for incident notification to Comcare
Comcare - Guide to incident notificationHelps you decide whether you need to notify Comcare of an injury, illness or dangerous incident under the WHS Act.
Page last updated: 31 Mar 2016