75: Electric shock - failure to test the tester
6 June 2018
An EGT apprentice received an electric shock, burns to his left hand, injuries to both of his elbows and narrowly missed sustaining head injuries as a result of not following robust testing procedures. This incident had all the factors that on another occasion might have resulted in a more serious injury or worse.
The job was a large addition to an old residence in the western suburbs. The clients were still occupying a part of the building during the construction phase. The host employer was doing the rough in installation at the time of incident.
The apprentice was asked by the tradesman to check with the client and then isolate the power and lighting circuits at the switchboard. Other circuits like the steamer oven and the retic pump remained energised. The task was to re-direct some cables around a void, at ceiling height, where a new staircase was to be installed. The ladder was placed in the void between the brick wall of the existing house and a new wall of just wooden studs.
The apprentice did not have his voltstick with him and so he borrowed a voltstick from his tradesman. He climbed the 8 foot fibreglass ladder, opened the junction box, tested for voltage and grabbed the cables with his left hand. He proceeded to disconnect the active conductors when he felt a severe pain in his left arm and found he had no control of his muscles. He could not let go of the cables.
He was trapped for several seconds above the void and it seemed the only apparent option available to him was to deliberately allow himself to fall backwards off the ladder. Fortunately his head missed the wall studs. His elbows and right hip took the brunt of the fall. When he was helped up he discovered burn marks to his left hand.
A personal message to apprentices
In each of the three electric shock incidents in 2018, inadequate test processes were a major factor.
If you don’t take charge of your safety, what guarantee is there that anyone else will – think before you work.
For further information regarding this Safety Alert, please contact EGT on (08) 6241 6100.