Importance of Safety near Power lines and Electricity

WorkCover NSW is once again reminding workers to be cautious when working with electricity and near power lines, an issue that is particularly relevant for those in the construction industry.

The warning from WorkCover NSW came after a recent analysis showed that there were 2 people who were electrocuted in the last 12 months and 14 people suffered electric shocks – that’s 16 incidents in a 12 month period between August 2012 and August 2013 involving electrical hazards.

WorkCover NSW highlighted one instance of a worker installing air conditioning when the wiring which was still energised caused him to receive an electric shock. The man died shortly afterwards in hospital.

The second incident cited by WorkCover NSW involved a plasterer attempting to install a ceiling fan when he cut through energised wiring by mistake and received an electric shock. In addition to the shock he also subsequently fell 2.4 metres off the ladder he had been working on causing additional injuries.

According to WorkSafe, working with or near electrical installations can be dangerous making it necessary for workers as well as employers to take the necessary precautions and always use licensed electricians for all electrical installation work.

It is important to remember that although all electrical situations are different, there are basic control measures that can be undertaken to improve electrical safety. WorkSafe reiterated the importance of testing before touching, a simple but commonly overlooked step in electrical safety.

Workers must remember to de-energise before starting work by identifying and isolating the source of electricity and locking and tagging the switch.

WorkSafe also reminded workers to regularly test and tag equipment especially in certain conditions including those which involve exposing electrical equipment to moisture, heat vibration, mechanical damage, corrosive chemicals and dust.

It is also particularly important to take into consideration any nearby over head or underground power lines to avoid getting electric shock or arc flash burns. Workers, equipment, material and plant should be kept at a safe distance from overhead and underground electric lines.

WorkSafe also warned businesses that if they fail to implement the necessary safety controls to protect workers, they will be prosecuted. Under workplace health and safety laws employers must provide workers with a safety system of work and that includes preventing them from being shocked or electrocuted while conducting their work.

In another incident a company was fined after 2 of its workers received electric shocks while unloading construction materials underneath live power lines. This is just the type of incident which can occur when sites controllers don’t implement the necessary safety measures on site to keep everyone safe. The 2 men involved almost lost their lives but luckily managed to survive the shock, the next time they may not be so lucky.

While the alert is regarding all work near or with electricity, the last incident also highlights the importance of ensuring that everyone who visits a construction site, even material delivery workers are trained on general construction safety training in the form of the federally mandated White Card. Even casual visitors like these 2 are going to be exposed to the hazards presented by construction work and need to know how to remain safe and avoid becoming a liability to others on site – this is the purpose of the White Card.

Help for Those Affected by floods and fires

According to an article on the website SafetyCulture.com.au ,WorkCover NSW is reminding the community to take extreme care during the clean-up and renovation of properties following floods and fires to avoid the potential exposure to asbestos.

WorkCover has joined forces with other government agencies to assist people affected by the flooding to get back on their feet with minimal disruption to services for NSW businesses and individuals.

Additional resources have been allocated by WorkCover to help residents, businesses, workers and other organisations to protect people’s health and safety when cleaning up in bushfire and flooding affected areas.

The post goes on to list a number of issues to take into consideration during the clean-up:

If you are cleaning up after a flood or fire you should consider the following.

Electricity

Check that an electricity clearance has been given before attempting to use it.

NSW Fair Trading has issued a warning to flood victims about solar panels.

Asbestos

Identify any likely asbestos containing materials or dangerous chemicals.

This website has additional detailed health and safety information and publications on high risk areas such as asbestos and electrical safety.

Assess the what work needs to be done

Work out the order of the work to be done so that new risks are not introduced. For example:

think about how you will get access to the areas where the work is to be done, or the possibility of creating instability from removing things in the wrong order

consider what could go wrong during the clean up and repair work

work out what tools and equipment will be needed to do the work safely

check the correct equipment is available and is in good working order

check that the people required to operate the equipment have the right skills and competencies and ensure supervision of less skilled workers is available

check that people allocated to perform work are not fatigued.

Source: http://www.safetyculture.com.au/news/

Another issue that people need to consider according to the article is first aid. It is vital that the appropriate first aid facilities are in place and people have clean drinking water and facilities to maintain hand hygiene and use the toilet. If there is an injury, there should be access to medical treatment.

Personal protective equipment is also important to protect the body and workers should have the necessary PPE for the jobs they are undertaking. These PPE must be correctly worn, workers should be educated on this.

WorkCover has also placed particular attention on counselling services. If there are any in place staff should be encouraged to use it and WorkCover will continue to offer advice and provide extra information so people who carry out work are fully aware of the safety requirements during recovery, repair or rebuilding operations.

Workers that are injured by the floods or fires and cannot get medical attention immediately can work together with WorkCover to meet their requirements so that their claims and compensation payouts are not affected.

WorkCover has also agreed to assist businesses that are financially affected by these disasters and are not able to pay their premiums to the Worker’s Compensation Scheme. This help can include waiving late payment fees, reinstating statutory instalments, and offering extended payments arrangements if needed.