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.

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