presents a very real, and some­times fa­tal, hazard

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - HEALTH & SAFETY -

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.


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.


• 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.


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.

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