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Are you aware of the risks when working on electrical equipment in restricted spaces?

A licensed electrician suffered a fatal electric shock in 2022 while working on a faulty ducted air-conditioner situated in the small roof space of a home.

While examining a malfunction in the main unit and observing a control box signal, he accessed the still energised air-conditioner. It is believed he was performing additional tasks at the time.

The control panel's metal cover, which was originally earthed through its securing screws, lost this connection when removed. In the process of detaching the metal cover, it inadvertently contacted the live supply terminals within the restricted space. This contact prevented him from letting go of the electrified cover, leading to the fatal electric shock.

While there are several factors involved in the incident, there are also potential considerations that may prevent this incident happening in the future or to help eliminate, protect, or reduce the electrical safety risks to persons working on electrical equipment in restricted roof spaces:

  • First and foremost, design the work so it doesn’t involve working on or near energised equipment. Where possible, have two persons present and conduct a thorough risk assessment prior to starting the task.
  • Closely consider installation instructions, which usually provide minimum spacing distances and recommendations for the original installer to locate the main unit in such an orientation to allow ease of future access for service personnel in as safe a manner as possible.
  • Consider where signals are required to be observed during fault-finding.
  • Control boxes requiring access for service should be mounted in/on the equipment in a location where they provide easy access to all service personnel.
  • Metal covers requiring access by service personnel or similar, should be fitted with an earth strap to ensure a permanent and continuous bond to the earth of the main body of the unit, even when removed.
  • Mount refrigerant piping away from any service corridor to reduce interference to access to control panels.
  • Insist electrical circuits are fitted with residual current devices. Safety switches save lives.

Further information

Find out more about Working on roofs and in ceiling spaces.