When it comes to safety at Water Corporation, its workers are of one mind: Think Safe, Act Safe.
A local tragedy involving a severe electrical shock caught the attention of Western Australians, and the team at Water Corporation were quick to act on it. They developed a range of resources to train operators on preventing similar electrical shocks and now help train people around the country in safer practices when working with metallic pipes.
The 2018 incident involved a 12-year-old girl receiving a severe electrical shock turning off the garden tap. A fault caused electricity to flow from the mains power through to the tap and she had to be dragged by her mother out of an electrified water puddle. While her mother was not severely injured, the young girl was put on life support and suffered a significant long-term brain injury.
The cause of the incident was that the single-phase aerial service cable supplying electricity had an open circuit neutral. It caused a voltage rise on the property’s protective earth system, which was connected to the tap the girl touched while standing on wet ground.
The Water Corporation realised its workforce was at risk, as part of their business was to send operators out to read and replace water meters. If a pre-existing electrical problem was present, then Water Corporation employees could be exposed to fatal risks.
The company’s safety protocols already mandated that its operators use insulated gloves, electrical testing equipment and a bridging cable before commencing work. While these measures reduce risk, the team wanted to raise awareness of how water pipes can be electrified and to reinforce the importance of using safety gear.
They developed a physical board with switches, dials and gauges as a visual aid on how pipes become electrified, showing how a bridging cable could help protect workers replacing meters. While effective as a demonstration, the final kit was bulky to carry and could be easily damaged when transported.
Water Corporation then decided to go digital – developing a simulation that could be integrated into the existing training modules. It also employed a game developer to build graphics and animations for the app to work on laptops, mobiles and tablets.
While the app doesn’t provide a score, it shows if the environment is safe or not using traffic lights and guides them toward the correct steps. This gamified, intuitive interface makes it a great tool for teaching all maturity levels to recognise the signs of electrical failure.
Since rolling out the app, Water Corporation has looked for other groups and opportunities for people to benefit from the training modules. It is TAFE-accredited and already being used by other utilities to add into their safety training curriculum.
The Water Meter Electrical Safety app is integrated into the North Metro TAFE accredited training module that aligns with the nationally recognised unit of competence Control electrical risk on metallic pipes required for a Certificate II in Water Industry Operations.
The app is supported on Microsoft PowerApps and is compatible across various devices. Utilities or other companies wishing to tap into the free training modules are welcome to contact Water Corporation to access and download the training.