Electrical

This information is designed to give you some safety tips and some preventative measures on how to manage electrical safety in your workplace.

Work Health and Safety Legislation requires electrical incidents to be notified to the regulator - check for the quicket method of notification in each jurisdication.

Electrical hazards

1.1 Electrical accidents

Employees are to treat every situation as potentially dangerous and only proceed if it is safe to do so, and if the required safety procedures are followed. A trained electrician is to be consulted if there is any doubt if the electrical equipment is live or dead.

1.2 Preventing electrical injuries

  • Switch off all heating appliances if the power fails. Fires have been caused when power returns unexpectedly.
  • Switch off before pulling out a plug. Grasp the plug – not the cord.
  • Tie the tapes of the electric blanket to prevent creasing.
  • Don’t spray household cleaners and insecticides on power points or switches. They may cause cracking and an electrical hazard.
  • Teach children that power points and appliances are not toys. Children can touch live pins of plugs. Plastic covers for power points reduce the chance of children inserting objects.
  • Combustible material must be kept clear of all heating appliances, such as bedding, clothes, curtains, furniture, newspapers, etc.
  • Some overseas products may not operate satisfactorily or safely under Australian conditions using 240V 50Hz supply. Such products could be hazardous if used without modification. Have them checked before use.
  • Do not immerse appliances in water to wash them unless instructions clearly allow it.
  • Don’t touch appliances or switches with wet hands.
  • Do not use a portable electric radiator in the bathroom. A permanently installed heater is much safer.
  • Never leave an appliance near the bath or basin. Children have been electrocuted by pulling hairdryers into baths even though the hairdryer switch was off. Unplug the appliance after every use.
  • Dry shoes should be worn when using electrical appliances in laundries, on concrete floors or outdoors. Electric shocks are much more likely to be fatal with bare feet.

Cords, cables and plugs

  • Fully unwind extension cords before use as they may overheat.
  • Damaged cords and older style plugs are dangerous. Have them replaced.
  • Never connect a piggyback plug or ordinary plug on the ‘wrong’ flex like this - the live pins could kill you.
  • Don’t stack plugs. It can overload the power point and cause a fire.
  • Home-made extension cords, wrongly wired or without an earth wire are dangerous. Buy ready-made cords, they’re cheaper and safer.

Electricity outdoors

  • Don’t leave appliances and cords out in the weather – put them away after use.
  • Be careful where you dig or drive stakes. There may be buried cables, especially in areas with underground supply.
  • Never use a portable appliance or extension cord where it could be splashed or fall into the pool. Temporary or makeshift wiring arrangements to pool pumps and spas are hazardous.
  • Electricity in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry
  • Electric shocks received in wet areas are more likely to be fatal than in other locations as they often involve bare feet, minimum clothing and water. Take extra care near swimming pools.

Equipment use and maintenance

  • For your safety, always follow instructions that come with appliances.
  • Before working on an appliance, switch off and pull out the plug. Parts of the appliance are energised even though the appliance switch is off. Please remember all electrical repairs should be carried out by an approved repairer.
  • Always treat a ‘tingle’ or slight shock as a warning. Never touch an appliance which causes a ‘tingle’ or shock until it is repaired by an approved repairer.
  • If liquid spills onto an appliance, unplug it and have it checked before using again.
  • Broken switches and power points should be replaced. Cover them up while waiting for an electrician.
  • If misused, a generator can be just as dangerous as mains supply. The connection of a portable generator to a house with mains supply must be done correctly.
  • Only use hand lamps which are fitted with guards to protect the globe. A broken globe gives easy access to the live filament and its live internal parts.
  • It’s vital to keep your appliances, electrical wiring, fittings, switchboard and earthing connections (particularly for properties over 25 years old) in good working order. If you ever have, or suspect a problem, always contact a licensed electrician.

Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of Electrical Equipment – responsibility

Clause 150 of the Work Health and Safety Regulation states that electrical equipment must be regularly inspected and tested by a competent person if the electrical equipmernt is:

  • supplied with electricity through an electrical socket outlet: and
  • used in an environment in which the normal use of the electrical equipment exposes the equipment to operating conditions that are likely to result in damage to the equipment or a reduction in its expected life span, including conditions that involve exposure to moisture, heat, vibration, mechanical damage, corrosive chemicals or dust.

New and unused electrical equipment only needs to be inspected for obvious damage prior to use.

Records of testing must be kept until next testing or removal or disposal of the equipment. Records must specify name of person who carried out testing, date of testing, outcome of testing, the date when testingis next required and may be in the form of a tag attached to the electricla equipment.

Untested equipment should not be used.

Residual current devices

Commencing January 1 2013 residual current devices are required the following circumstances:

  • in an environment where the normal use of electrical equipment exposes the equipment to operating conditions that are likely to result in damage to the equipment or a reduction in its expected life span, including conditions that involve exposure to moisture, heat, vibration, mechanical damage, corrosive chemicals or dust;
  • if electrical equipment is moved between different locations, where damage to the equipment or a flexible electricity supply cord is reasonably likely;
  • if electrical equipment is frequently moved during its normal use;
  • if electrical equipment, forms part of, or is used in connection with, an amusement device.

The residual current device must have a tripping current that does not exceed 30 milliamps if electricity is supplied to the equipment through a socket outlet not exceeding 20 amps. The RCD must be tested prior to use and regularly by a competent person.

Workers need to be consulted and trained in the above.

For low risk equipment, routine visual checks of the equipment, fittings and the flexible supply lead by the operator should be sufficient. In addition to the routine checks other control measures could be used including, maintenance, repair, replacement, use of residual current devices (RCD’s) and, when warranted,

You must apply a systematic risk management approach to any electrical equipment which does not fall into the above categories. After the risk assessment, you can then implement a range of control measures including:

  • routine visual checks
  • regular inspection
  • maintenance
  • repair
  • replacement
  • use of residual current devices (RCDs)
  • and, where warranted, testing of identified electrical equipment.


References

WHS Act

WHS Regulation

WorkCover NSW “Electrical Risks in the Workplace Fact Sheet "

Australian Standard AS/NZS 3760:2001. “In-service safety inspection and testing of electrical equipment”.

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