presents a very real, and sometimes fatal, hazard
Ensuring electrical equipment is safe can be hard, especially if equipment and tools are often moved around, used by different workers or taken off-site. There is no device that will provide 100 percent protection, so it’s important you carry out forward planning, such as a task analysis, to avoid tragedy.
Luckily, the team of expert health and safety advisors at Site Safe have put together some tips to help you stay safe when working with electricity.
LOOK OUT! I DENTIFYING ELECTRICAL HAZARDS
Electrical hazards can be found in many places, including:
• Sockets and plugs.
• Light bulbs.
• Water supplies.
• Overhead lines.
• Temporary supply switch boards.
• Electrical cords, equipment or tools.
• Flammable materials.
• Incompetent people doing electrical work.
• Using the incorrect wattage for light fixtures.
• Damaged or faulty equipment, or using the wrong equipment for the task.
• Underground services.
• Using power tools under the influence of drugs, alcohol or fatigue.
• Electrical supply not isolated.
• Workers suffering from mental or physical fatigue.
BASICS STEPS TO MANAGE THE RISK:
• Before doing work, make sure people are trained and competent to use any electrical equipment.
• Store equipment carefully, securely and safely. Cords should be stored somewhere dry.
• Check sockets and plugs are correct and don’t use double adapters.
• Never tamper with electrical circuits or systems.
• Switch off tools and power sockets before plugging in or unplugging.
• Electricity used outdoors, where water may be present, requires special precautions because an electrical shock is highly likely to be fatal. Have effective drainage so that excess water can safely disperse and, where possible, be kept away from electrical tools and equipment.
• Work should be performed on a dry, insulated floor. Wooden platforms, rubber mats, or dry areas provide extra protection, especially in confined spaces.
• Leads can easily become trip hazards, keep them tidy and away from water.
• Portable power tools should be connected to power outlets via an earth leakage residual current device, or RCD. They should have a safety control switch which operates the “motor only” option when held in the “on position”.
• Temporary switchboards should be readily accessible and attached to a permanent structure and should be weather proof, lockable and have an insulated slot for leads, and a circuit breaker.
• Any work or alteration to the switchboard must be carried out by a registered electrician.
• A RCD should be in place at mains power sources and temporary supply switchboards. If practical the RCD should be incorporated into the temporary supply.
• Damaged or worn cords should be replaced immediately.
• An absolute minimum of four metres working clearance is required from powerlines. If less, written authority is required from the electricity line owner.
• Choose equipment that is well maintained, heavy duty, and commercial quality.
INSPECT AND TEST
Employers have a responsibility to ensure that electrical appliances, equipment, machines, tools and power cords are safe for employees to use. Site Safe recommends:
• Conducting daily visual inspections of the area and tools to ensure there are no new hazards.
• All electrical tools and equipment, including extension cords, must be tested and tagged by a competent person when new and then at three-monthly intervals. If a fault or damage is detected it must be removed from service immediately, labelled ‘DO NOT USE’ and kept secure until repaired by a registered electrical worker.
• RCDs should be tested manually daily before use, utilising the inbuilt testing button.
• Electrical appliances, tools and leads should be checked for damage or faults by the operator prior to use. To download a free factsheet on electrical safety, go to www.sitesafe.org.nz.
Site Safe also offers the Foundation Passport – Tools and Plant course, an entry-level course on the safe use of common construction tools and equipment. The seven-hour health and safety training course includes Electrical Workers Registration Board (EWRB) practising licence refresher and First Aid/CPR. This course also renews site access cards.
The Foundation Passport - Electricians is suitable for all residential and commercial electricians, including those who are self- employed.
The course is designed to:
• Improve health and safety awareness for yourself and others.
• Gain practical testing skills in line with AS/NZS 3000:2007 Section 8 and AS/NZS 3760:2010.
• Gain competence in First Aid/CPR.
• Earn 3 credits towards your Certificate in Construction Site Safety.
Topics covered include:
• Insulation resistance of an installation.
• Main earth resistance.
• Earth bonding to metalwork resistance.
• Mains polarity insulation resistance of the mains.
• Continuity and polarity of the power circuit.
• Ensuring the residual- current device (RCD) is isolated on both live circuits when it is switched off.
Site Safe is a not-for- profit, membership- based organisation that promotes, inspires and supports a culture of health and safety in New Zealand construction.