Urgent safety warning after workers sustain critical arc flash burns

The Electricity (Licensing) Amendment Regulations (No. 2), published in November 2017, do not permit electrical work to be performed on or near an exposed energised part of an electrical installation that can be de-energised. Work on energised parts of an installation may occur in accordance with Regulation 55 of the Electricity (Licensing) Regulations 1991.  

The following article from our Victorian Branch on a recent arc flash incident in Queensland reinforces why this legislation was implemented and why working live should only be performed when there is no alternative.

VIC Safety Alert

Two electrical workers recently received significant arc flash burns after working live on a switchboard at a Gold Coast shopping centre. Both workers are in hospital, one worker is in a very critical condition and the Queensland Electrical Safety Office (ESO) are investigating the incident.

As electricians, we all know the significant risks and dangers of working on switchboards, exacerbated by the creation of arc flashes due to the presence of high fault currents. Furthermore, these switchboard works are often carried out within difficult and confined work areas.

This work is deemed as high risk. To protect your workers and to identify and adequately control the risks to minimise the risk of arc flash occurring, a SWMS must be completed.

Considerations to include:

  1. Rescheduling the works to a time where the switchboard can be fully isolated – this should always be the preferred and first option
  2. Electrically isolating nearby electrical equipment or installation before starting work, and ensuring it can't be reconnected while the work is being carried out
  3. Using insulated or non-conductive physical barriers to prevent inadvertent contact with energised parts
  4. Ensuring workers have appropriate knowledge and skills to perform the work safely
  5. Ensuring testing procedures are in place to prove parts are de-energised before work commences
  6. Ensuring people not required for the work are excluded from the area, by use of screens, barriers and signage
  7. Ensuring workers have tools, test equipment and PPE suitable for the rated level of fault current
  8. Ensuring your staff or site persons have adequate training for electrical rescue, first aid and CPR and a have a rescue plan in place

Adequately implementing an OH&S Management System such as NECA’s HSEQ System will ensure that you are actively managing safety for your workers and meeting your legal obligations.