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Electrical safety for apprentices

The Electrical safety for apprentices film is aimed at both apprentices and supervising tradespeople to help to build the capabilities of apprentices to be safe and productive at work. Find out how to give your apprentice the best support, training and mentoring within your business.

Download a copy of this film (MP4/ZIP, 2GB)

Hello, and welcome to our electrical apprentice and supervisor safety presentation. This film is for our electrical apprentices, like me, and for our tradesperson who are supervising apprentices to raise awareness of the dangers present in electrical work and what you need to do to stay safe.

The electrical industry is vast in its scope and begins with the generation of electricity. It continues through transmission, distribution, and then into individual installations which is where most of you will be working. This film looks at how you can stay safe at work. It reminds apprentice supervising tradespersons of the importance of leading a culture of safety so that everyone gets to go home at the end of the day. Safe work practises are essential. If you don't know how to do something, ask. This includes supervisors. We want to make it absolutely clear that the apprentice must be supervised at all times by an electrical worker licensed to perform the work. It's the employer's responsibility to ensure the level of supervision is appropriate for the apprentice. This includes the type of electrical work to be performed and the adequacy of the apprentice's training and competency. Each year in Queensland, there are a number of serious electrical incidents. And tragically, some of these are fatal.

We want to make sure this doesn't happen to you or someone under your supervision. The impact on you, your mates, and your family would be nothing short of devastating.

So for every job that you do, make sure it's safe and seek guidance when you need to. Supervising tradespersons must be proactive and lead safety by making sure workers are performing their work in a safe manner.

Identify, isolate, and test. The isolation point of the circuits or equipment that you're working on must be identified. The correct circuit or equipment must be isolated, tested, and then proven to be de-energised. This is very important for your safety and the safety of others around you. It could save your life and theirs. If you have any doubts, ask questions. Say no if you need to.

Always discuss any electrical safety issues or concerns with your supervising tradesperson or employer. If you still feel your concerns have not been addressed, contact the Electrical Safety Office.

As an electrical worker, you will likely need to enter domestic, commercial, or industrial ceiling spaces, get under floors or into other building cavities in high risk environments to perform work. Several serious incidents have occurred in ceiling spaces over the last five years. And you must be aware of the risk of electric shock. Contact with damaged or exposed live wiring or equipment can lead to serious injury or even death. Unprotected and poorly installed electrical cables can easily be damaged by being walked on, having objects dragged over or placed on them, or by being chewed by vermin. This can damage the cable insulation and expose live conductors. In older installations, the cable may have perished, making them no longer electrically safe or they may contain equipment with exposed live parts due to the incorrect and unsafe installation.

Anyone entering a ceiling space is then at risk of electric shock either through direct contact with live parts or coming into contact with structural metal work that has become live. The best way to control this risk is to isolate and effectively lock out all circuits that are located within the space prior to entry. It is also very important to consider all circuits within the space as there is often multiple sources of electricity or circuits that cannot be isolated from the switchboard such as the consumer mains, solar, or battery systems. A risk assessment needs to be performed and controls put in place to ensure your safety.

The employer must ensure an apprentice with less than six months training does not work in the immediate vicinity of any energised high voltage exposed part or anywhere there is a risk they could come into contact with an energised low voltage exposed part. This includes testing.

A supervising tradesperson must be readily available to the apprentice at all times. Whether this is in the immediate vicinity or contactable through other means such as phone, depends on the skill and competency level of the apprentice. As an apprentice supervisor, you must prove that the equipment the apprentice is working on is not energised before the work starts. As an apprentice, this is a skill that you'll learn during your apprenticeship. All electrical workers must be licensed and competent for the work they perform.

There is a basic ABC for licensed tradespeople working in our industry. When it comes to isolation of electricity: A - Assume nothing, B - Believe no one, and C - Check everything. Never assume a circuit or equipment is not live. Do not trust anyone that tells you something is not energised and check it. Always use a voltmeter or multi-meter to test and confirm the equipment you're working on is not energised. A volt stick or detector is not suitable for testing and should only be used as an indicator device. Always confirm your test instruments are functioning correctly before and after proving your isolation. Any equipment containing electrical wiring can become energised at any time if there is a fault or if someone has not done their job properly. Unexpected situations can occur when you least expect it. So it's vital you test before you touch and find out if it's safe to work on the equipment. As an example, this is a domestic water pump located on a farm in Victoria. Moisture entered the electrical terminals of the pump motor, which caused the frame of the pump to be live at 246 volts. A person died when he touched this water pump.

Don't let this be you. Always test before you touch.

Another industry basic is don't work on or near energised parts. You may hear the saying 'don't work live' quite often in our industry. Performing work on energised parts is not allowed in Queensland unless you meet the strict requirements of the electrical safety laws. If you isolate a switchboard at the main switch but do not remove the service fuse, you'll be working on a switchboard that still contains energised parts. This is a switchboard where the main switch is off but there is still power to one side of the main switch. So we recommend that the service fuse is removed. Your supervising tradesperson can do this if they're authorised by the supply authority and follow the required safety procedures.

So let's look at some examples of what can happen if these steps aren't followed. This electrician was working on a switchboard that contained energised parts and he did not isolate or take adequate precautions. Three years later, he still does not have the full use of his hand.

This could happen to you if you don't work safely and take the necessary steps to isolate the equipment you are working on or near.

These next few images detail a severe electrical incident that involved a young electrical worker who was working in this electrical switchboard compartment. The isolator was turned off in this compartment, however the terminals on one side of this isolator were still energised just as we saw earlier in the other switchboard. The electrician's pliers came into contact with the live parts causing a large electrical explosion to occur. The arc from the explosion caused severe burns to the electrical worker. The electrical worker, his supervising tradesperson, and the employer all failed to eliminate the risk by following the basic procedure of isolating the equipment. The compartment could have been isolated upstream to eliminate the hazards of working near energised parts. The reason given for not isolating further upstream was this would've affected production. This is never an excuse to work unsafely. Electrical work must not be carried out on electrical equipment while energised simply because it is merely convenient for the electrical equipment to stay energised while the work is being performed. The explosion also caused a loss of production, but also add to the cost of replacing and repairing the switchboard compartment and the devastating ongoing impact of this injury to the young man, his family, and colleagues.

This short clip demonstrates what could happen if a fault is applied to a switchboard. This explosion was performed under controlled conditions and demonstrates what can happen when the rules are not followed. When you don't follow the rules, you're at risk of electric shock, arc flash burns, and serious injury.

So how do you make sure you and your workers can work safely?

To make sure the circuit or equipment are safe, you must lock out and tag out. This is known in the industry as lock out tag out with the following steps. Consult with the person with management or control of the workplace and notify any other affected people. Identify the circuits requiring isolation and associated control device to be isolated. Switch off or otherwise isolate the identified circuit, lock the isolating switches, and tag the switching points where possible to provide general information to people at the workplace. Test to confirm the relevant circuits have been de-energised and any other relevant conductors in the work area. Re-test as necessary. For example, if the person carrying out the work temporarily leaves the immediate area, checks and tests must be carried out on their return to ensure that the electrical equipment being worked on is still isolated and safeguard against inadvertent reconnection by another person.

Supervisors, you must ensure that when you are supervising an apprentice with less than six months of training, they cannot be in the immediate vicinity of an energised high voltage exposed part or anywhere there is a risk they can come into contact with an energised low voltage exposed part. This includes testing, and neutrals are always considered to be live parts. Every circuit you work on must be switched off by isolating the circuit breaker or removing a fuse cartridge. A lock out device must then be attached and padlocked with a completed danger tag attached. Never remove someone else's lock or tag without their permission and always check with your supervising tradesperson before re-energising.

Australian Standard, AS/NZS 4836 Safe work on or near LV electrical installations and equipment provides further guidance on making your working environment safe. We recommend you get yourself a copy or have your employer provide you with a copy and follow the guidance given in it.

These next few images depict a fatality that occurred in 2015. A 25 year old electrical worker was repairing this air conditioner. After isolating and carrying out his repairs, he energised the air conditioner to check if it was working properly. Once he confirmed the air conditioner was working correctly, he did not isolate again before finishing the internal electrical work and replacing the covers. He continued working on this equipment while the electrical control panel was energised. This electrical worker was killed when he made contact with the energised parts within the air conditioner control panel. Isolating the air conditioner unit would've prevented this young electrical worker's death.

Remember to always lock out and tag out every circuit you work on every time.

Always remember, treat all cables as live. Not just actives. This is a photo of a socket outlet installed in the roof space for a light. An electrical apprentice had turned off the light switch, but not turned off or locked out the circuit at the switchboard. There was a broken neutral at the socket outlet. The broken neutral was live. The apprentice did not test before touching the neutral. The 22 year old apprentice was killed. Where was his supervisor? If you were the supervisor, could you live with an incident like this occurring to someone under your guidance or supervision? An apprentice must be supervised at all times by an electrical worker who is licensed and competent to perform the work. It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure the level of supervision is appropriate for the apprentice.

So in summary, don't forget always ensure the correct supervision is being performed. And remember to always test before you touch, don't work on or near live parts, and make every circuit you need to work on safe by isolating it. After isolating, lock out and tag out to ensure no one turns on the supply while you are working on the circuit. Treat all cables as live, not just the actives.

If you have any doubts, ask questions and say no if you need to.

Always discuss electrical safety issues or concerns with your supervising tradesperson or employer. If you still feel your concerns have not been addressed, contact the Electrical Safety Office.

For further information, visit and or call 1300 362 128.

Run time: 14 minutes 00 seconds.