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Electrical contractor webinar 2021

This recorded webinar is for electrical contractors, electricians and anyone working in the electrical industry to hear industry updates and learn more about electrical hazards and mental health.

Download a copy of this film (MP4, 1.53GB)

Electrical contractor webinar

Chris Bombolas

Good morning everyone and welcome to our electrical contractor webinar. Thanks for joining us for another Electricity Safety Week event. I'm Chris Bombolas from the office of Industrial Relations and I'm your MC for this morning's event.

Can I firstly acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we meet and elders past, present, and emerging. We're celebrating Electricity Safety Week this week with a range of free events and prizes. So once again thanks for joining us today. And you could be a winner.

Throughout today's session there's an opportunity to ask our speakers any questions you like. Just type them into the live Q and A box on the right of your screen and we'll get to them during the panel session which is happening a little later on. And get this, just by typing your question you'll go into the draw to win one of three 100 dollar trade equipment gift vouchers. That's an easy competition with some great odds. And hope you can join in for that one.

If you have any technical problems during our session then please make sure the sound is turned off on your computer, refresh your browser, and if that doesn't work contact us via the Q and A chat box.

Today is R U OK day which is all about inspiring and empowering people to meaningfully connect with those in their world and to lend support when they are struggling with life. On that note let's welcome in Paul Spinks an advanced care paramedic and trauma counselor to officially kick start today's event.

Paul has worked in employment services and in a rehab as a national training manager conducting self development courses. His presentation discusses suicide which some people might find disturbing. If you or someone you know is struggling we will have some slides up shortly where you can get help and support. Welcome in Paul.

Paul Spinks

Thank you. Thank you Chris and g'day all. Look I'm gonna take you on a fairly wild journey on the next half an hour or so on what it means to keep well.

So 16 years in the ambulance service aa trauma councilor, I've learned a lot and seen a lot. I wanna share some of that with you today. Can I just begin to tell you that I'm currently working out in the far remote Cape York region of Australia in a small station with a catch man area of about 300 kilometers. It certainly has had its challenges.

I went out on a job, I was dispatched there, couple of weeks ago 150 kilometers away going down a dirt road I was told just to keep right on this dirt road and drive for a couple of hours. As I continued driving I get to an intersection and I thought well that wasn't the plan, I didn't know whether to turn right or go straight ahead. Fortunately I went straight ahead which was the right way. I drove for about another hour or so. I started getting concerned, it was hot, it was dry, what happens if I break down?

All a sudden I lost my GPS, didn't know where I was going in the middle of some pretty hard country out there. I thought about my water bottle, I thought oh my god what happens if I break down am I gonna run out of water here? A bit further on there was some fires. I thought oh what happens if I get surrounded by fire? It's amazing that anxiety cascade isn't it as it just builds up and up and up.

Fortunately about another hour on the drive I came across little rangers tent, an Indigenous worker came out and greeted me and he took me the last 10 or 15 minutes to the particular patient I had to go to. So it had a nice ending, but some pretty interesting challenges.

One of the challenges I had out there was this it was a particularly nasty accident. It was a father and his son on a motor bike and they were heading out to just having some fun having adventure with his lad and they were going round this sweeping left hand corner and when they did the young bloke gave a bit of a squirt and he went out onto the wrong side of the road and a truck was coming the other way. And collected him and put him straight onto the truck he got caught up under the truck. He was killed instantly. And the dad was on scene, so pretty horrific stuff.

Dad turned around and found his young bloke caught under the truck. Ambulance rocks up scene and it's a pretty tragic day probably one of the worst accidents I've ever been to, but a pretty profound awakening, a lot of wake up calls on that particular job. But I spent about an hour and a half on scene with the dad just trying to counsel him and work through this particular tragedy. Towards the end of the accident I was getting ready to go and I embraced the dad. We had a bit of a cry together. I have a son about the same age. And he said to me, he said "oh you know he had his hair dyed green yesterday." And he said "he had this monstrous tattoo put down his arm." He said "I got up him about his tattoo, "I got up him about his green hair." And he just shook his head. In other words it meant nothing.

In death it meant absolutely nothing. It's interesting the things we worry about isn't it you know green hair, tattoos, is somebody gay, you know all the COVID discussion, it stresses us and worries us so much. But at the end of the day does it really matter?

What are we really worried about that or what should we be really worried about? COVID-19 deserves a mention these days and this is from an ambulance response, but I got called around to one of the COVID hotels. And a young bloke was threatening to commit suicide 12 days in lockdown in a tiny room. And around the hotels I rocked up there, walked upstairs, and when I got upstairs the police were out the front and they gave me a brief. I walked inside and there the balcony doors are wide open.

So I had a bit of a chat to this young bloke. I decided he wasn't too much of a threat. Walked out and said to the police look I said "I think he can stay "as long as we put him down into a safer room." And the police said to me "no problems at all." So I went downstairs I was doing my paperwork and the sergeant come up to me said "mate just to let you know" he said "I put the young bloke downstairs in a safe room." I said "terrific" I said "what room did you put him in?" He said "the fourth floor." And I said "the fourth floor? I said "do you think he could still "jump out of the fourth floor and harm himself?" He said "yeah he probably could." I said "well why don't you stick him in the first floor?" And he said "yeah" he said "the problem with the first floor" he said "they're all locked balcony's on the first floor." And I said "and your point is?" And he said "well" he said "we're not allowed, "the regulations forbid us "to put people into a locked room." He said "I'd need a high court judge "to allow us to put him into a locked room."

So I said okay, so they left him on the fourth floor and I thought wow isn't it amazing, all the rules and regulation we have to do. And here we are in a police environment and this young bloke couldn't be put safely into a locked room.

I wanna tell you about another nasty job I did which involved this particular apartment building. I got called to a 35 year old girl that was threatening self harm or threatening to commit suicide. When I walked in there I saw her on about the fourth floor of this particular apartment building. She was sitting there and I walked in there, I gave her a bit of a wave, and I run up the stairs to go and have a chat to her. It was about four o'clock on Christmas Eve, I was going home at five.

So I thought if I can just get her down to see the psychologist down at Robina Hospital, that was the plan. But when I got up there she'd crossed over the balcony and she was just hanging onto the side of the balcony this little lip of concrete. And I thought oh my god don't do this to me on Christmas Eve. And so I had a bit of a chat to her for about five minutes or so and I could see her pupils were fully dilated. She'd entered what I call the black hole. She couldn't see her family, she couldn't see her friends anymore, she just wanted end the pain.

So I knew what I was doing wasn't going to help too much. So I ran downstairs and I got underneath her and I'm talking to her from underneath her. I thought hopefully she won't jump in this position. Female partner walks in, she runs up the stairs and she tries some female negotiating power. And when she does she's met with the same issue, she enters the black hole. And right about this time the bystander is about to go shopping, talk about the right place at the right time or the wrong place the wrong time, however you view life. She walks out and she sees the commotion so she decide to get involved and we kind of all recruited her. And she started, so both the girls started to approach the patient, I was underneath her.

We knew we had to do something because she was getting more and more loose on the balcony, and she was oh she was about to jump. So the right moment the command was given to grab her. And when they went to grab her the girl jumped from the balcony but the partner managed to grab her foot and the bystander managed to grab her hand. Bystander couldn't hang on for too long so she let go of her hand, she was now upside down with one leg with my partner hanging onto her on the balcony. She couldn't hang onto her either and she eventually had to let her go and she came down about a meter from me from the balcony. And the rest is history.

Pretty horrific scene. Her brother rocks up on scene, not a great place for a brother to rock up on scene, but he's really composed, he knew his sister was in trouble. I said "mate" I said "how did it get to this?" He said "god" he said "mate she was doing all right "four or five years ago" but he said "her husband had walked out on her "and she wasn't doing too well. "She went to see psychologist, "the psychologist referred her to a psychiatrist, "the psychiatrist put her on lithium, Valium, "antidepressants, antipsychotics, you name it, "she was on a sweet of medication." I say oh my god how did this girl even get through the day.

As psychiatrists start to try and intervene with every single neuron inside of our head. But so when was your last normal? How do we get ourselves into these positions? If I'm not talking about you today I'm most certainly talking about one of your family members. When I sit round the dinner table with my kids every night, when I work with my ambulance colleagues, so when I'm doing presentations I walk around with this acronym called help and I wanna share it with you because it's saved a lot of lives.

Help stands for any signs of hopelessness or helplessness. If I'm sitting around the table and I notice that I just hover over my kids and I dig a bit deeper I never let these things go. And they're offering any signs of emotional behaviour, emotional distress, are they crying more than normal? Are they angry more than normal? And I hover over it and I dig a little bit deeper and ask lots of questions. Are they offering any signs of loss? Loss of appetite, loss of connection, loss of friends? That's a big one. And if I notice anything like that I just hover over it and dig a bit deeper.

And then offer any physical changes. Is there any, their clothes ragged, are their hair ragged or whatever the case may be, you think oh just hover over it and dig a bit deeper. I can't tell you how many lives I've saved or intervened just by using that help. I would challenge you to do the same.

So how have we got our heads in the sand when it comes to all things mental health?

There's so much discussion on mental health, every time you turn the television on the radio, there's something about mental health. But how well do we really do mental health? How well do you do it at home? How well do you invest in this thing called mental health? Like who's had the suicide conversation with the kids? Pretty tough question isn't it?

I had the suicide conversation with my young bloke when he was about 16 years of age. He said "you know what dad?" He said "I have been thinking about harming myself." I went "really?" Now in the ambulance we have a criteria. You can have the thoughts, everyone can have the thoughts, but the next question takes a quantum leap to about an 80 percent probability, do you know how and do you know where?

So I asked my young bloke do you know how and do you know where? To which he replied "yeah dad I know exactly how "and I know exactly where." Okay, let's get onto this. So we get him down the doc, we get him referred to a psychologist, I sacked the first psychologist 'cause they were useless.

Be prepared to sack your psychologist and hunt for a good one. And about two or three later I found a terrific one and we stayed in that place. We worked on him for the next 12 months or two years and in today he's doing really well. All of the advice has been given along the way. Had we not had the conversation, had I not deepened the conversation, or had not used things tools like help he may not be with us today. I just wanna show you this little video.

People that become mentally ill or suicidal it starts with obviously little cracks. They become.

Bigger cracks if left unattended. What do you think right now in your life is some cracks, some little cracks that could just be? Dangerous.

- Very insecure.

- Yeah.

- Insecurity, why are we so insecure?

- Just 'cause there's about, yeah like not fitting in to like the certain like fit category or whatever like I don't know.

- And I feel also judged by my parents. I feel like I feel like they're not proud of me. And I don't look I'm not like pretty enough. I just feel like I've let them down with who I am.

People that become mentally ill or suicidal. If that doesn't put a shiver down your spine for anybody that's got a daughter I tell you what, listen to that conversation. Not pretty enough, and all the things that kids fear at this stage. But that video is particularly personal to me because that's my daughter. And we just went down the park to have a conversation on marijuana actually. We grabbed three of her friends. That video went for about half an hour.

And we're having lots of laughs and lots of funs and that was the back end and started noticing little cracks. What did I do? Help, hover over it and dug a little bit deeper. And then sort of wow bang, dad gets punched in the face and there it is right in my family. I invest in mental health, got a good relationship, great relationship with my daughter. The just hovering below the surface is some of these things. How well do we do mental health? How well do we invest in our family? Do you go home every night and get on social media and start on Facebook and start investing in somebody else's life when these little time bombs and these little cracks are sort of could be ticking away at your house? Needs some thought doesn't it?

I want to people to do all kinds of things to service their mental health, and I just want to run through a couple of them. But this is a big one. But in the year, or in the year of 2016 or so a large number of Australian's walked into our doctors and said "doctor doctor I'm agitated, "doctor doctor I can't sleep." And the doctors prescribed us an alarming amount of mind-altering medication just get through the day. Around the year of 2016 or '17 it was about 30 million prescriptions.

So we threw a stack of money at it, we expanded mental health services, and did a go up or did it go down? It went up, it was about 40 million prescriptions. And now the current rate of prescriptions for antidepressants are around 50 million tablets.

Is that how we do mental health these days? Do we just erode our mental health, have no checks along the way and find ourselves all a sudden having some kind of episode walking to the doctor and saying "doctor, doctor, I'm agitated. "Doctor, doctor, I can't sleep." And the doctor in their wisdom might hand us a little packet of pills and out we go where we treat the symptom but we never treat the cause. Needs a lot more thought than that doesn't it?

The next big one I'd say to you is breathe.

God we've become a nation of shallow breathers. We used to breathe about 20 years ago at seven or eight breaths a minute. Now we're breathing at something like 13, 14, 15, 20, 25 breaths a minute.

And something extraordinary happens when you start to shallow breathe 'cause we blow off too much carbon dioxide. When we blow off too much carbon dioxide our arteries constrict. It snaps out little arteries, our major arteries snap shut into the big muscles in our back and we get tight in our back. It snaps the muscles shut into our coronary artery hence the correlation between stress and heart attack. It snaps the carotid artery shut hence the correlation between stroke and stress. It increases the stress hormones of adrenaline and cortisol and it reduces down the production of the good fuel of serotonin and dopamine. Wow just all in the power of the breath. Imagine if we could bring it back eh?

Imagine if we could invest in this thing called mental health. You know what? I'll just do all the organic things first. I'll start breathing again at seven or eight breaths per minute. I'll get on a YouTube clip overnight or I'll just lie on the floor and I'll do a one minute guided exercise and mediation just learn how to breathe again. Wow we can make profound changes.

One respiratory physiologist said that 98 percent of blood pressure can be controlled just in the power of the breath. Worth investing in. But I'm gathering you won't go home tonight and do that will you? You won't go home and probably do that five or 10 minutes so we gotta do every day invest, how's that gonna make it really easy?

Started this thing called the two second rule in the ambulance service at work's it's a treat. Because when I go off to a nasty job or a cardiac arrest hey my adrenaline and cortisol goes to the roof. I roll out of those doors, I'm looking at drugs and protocols and things like that. I rock up to somebody's house and go over that fence. Somebody's in cardiac arrest and there's a family there. God if I get out of the car at that time I'm no good to anybody.

So I've just adopt the two second rule. The two second's like a micro manage of meditation rule. In through the nose. Out through the, okay you've got this Paul. And I get out calm cool and collected and deliver the job. So successful it's been in the ambulance service. I use it on the kids. Kids give me a hard time at home. In through the nose. Out through the mouth. Okay kids let's just do this. Somebody gives me the finger I nearly jam up the back side of somebody's car and they you know wave at me stupid or give me a hard time. In through the nose out through the mouth. Doesn't work all the time but I've gotta say it works a lot of the time.

There's other ways to find me. There's a QR code here. And I'll have to check with how the people that are operating today just to further get you a QR code to you. But this will if you scan this QR code it'll take you to a summary video of my presentation today. If you'll get my personal emails, my personal details.

So if you have any questions please write to me I love it when people write to me. And I'll always get back to you. Thanks for tuning in today.

Chris Bombolas

Thank you Paul. As always your presentation is revealing. There's no sugar coating anything including poop food. I'll rephrase what you said. And some great advice. And Paul we really appreciate your taking time. I thought I was a better me today, but having listened to you, there's certainly improvement that we can all make whether it's mental or physical so thank you again.

In light of this being R U OK day I encourage you to use these four steps to start a conversation with your friends, family and colleagues. And as Paul said, sometimes those conversations are confronting and they are not easy. So it could change a life if you begin with these simple four suggestions. Ask, are you okay? Listen. Encourage action. Check in. And we love an acronym here in the government so that turns out to be ALEC. So ask are you okay, listen, encourage action, and check in. And we might change slides now. And on your screen you will see some very important contact numbers that you can reach out to if you or someone you know, and that could be a work colleague, it could be a loved one, anyone in your life that may be going through a tough time.

You can see some of the organizations there, some great help given by these guys. Mates in Construction, MensLine Australia, Lifeline, Beyond Blue, the Black Dog Institute, Suicide Call Back Service, and the SANE Australia, and Open Minds.

So again all those contact details are there. And if you feel the need or you think someone needs some help then please use those numbers and contact details. Let's move onto our next speaker coming up very very shortly. But Paul's gonna join us for our panel session later on.

And if you do have any questions for Paul or any other member of our panel we do have three 100 dollar trade equipment vouchers to give away. It's pretty easy, all you need to do is type your name and question in the Q and A box to the left of your screen. Remember that for every question you ask that's one entry into the draw. So it might be good that if you ask multiple questions and we can get to them you got multiple chances of winning those trade vouchers.

I'd now like to welcome Donna Heelan. She is the Executive Director of the Electrical Safety Office, to give us an update about ESO matters. Donna welcome.

Donna Heelan

Thanks Chris. Wow what a tough act to follow with going straight behind Paul. Sadly we'll change tactic a little bit more. And I thank you all very much for taking time out of your busy work and home lives to join us today as part of Electricity Safety Week.

Electrical safety I often say is not sexy. But as the electrical contractors QTP's and QBP's and yes we do like a good acronym, thanks Bombe. You play a critical role in ensuring the professionalism, the competency, the well being, health and safety of Queensland's Electrical Industry.

On any given day we have around 60,000 licensed electrical workers, 12,000 contractors, and almost 9,000 apprentices. And while every single one of them should be going home safely every day sadly this doesn't always happen. Last year there were 22 serious electrical incidents in Queensland, and tragically three of them were fatal. That's three people that no longer have their dad, their son, their partner, their workmate, their coach or their friend. I know you will all join me in saying that this number should be zero. Zero fatalities and zero serious electrical incidents.

For those doing the wrong thing we will not shy away from using all available enforcement tools with the regulator. We've been focusing as you probably know an unlicensed electrical contracting and unlicensed electrical work. Not only is it illegal it is unsafe and dangerous.

So far in the last 12 months we've issued almost 100,000 dollars worth of on the spot fines and progress with a number of matters before the courts through the Independent Work Health and Safety Prosecutor. Many of you know that our electrical safety laws were established in 2002, almost 20 years ago, which then provided high standards of safety for the industry. But new and emerging technologies have lead to significant changes for the electricity generation, storage, and supply, which is why the Electrical Safety Act is currently under independent review to ensure it remains effective relevant and future proofed. I'm really proud to lead the electrical safety team. And this year has seen a number of firsts.

The first industrial mass order charge has been laid by the office of the Work Health and Safety Prosecutor under the Electrical Safety Act after a tragic fatality. We've had the successful application of three magistrate court injunctions for failures to comply with improvement notices. And we've issued the first immediate license suspension for unsafe electrical work. These have never been done before in Queensland.

And while we're on the topic of enforcement action, the Independent Prosecutors Office has secured almost 440,000 dollars of fines for breaches of the Electrical Safety Act in the past 12 months. We're also focusing on expanding our reach as the regulator to ensure we have visibility in the Queensland community. Not just in the Southeast Queensland corner but across all of our great state. We've written to 37,000 landlords about their duties under the legislation.

And if you're around tomorrow or have people that are a landlord or work in the real estate industry, I urge you to encourage them to join us tomorrow for our final electricity safety webinar for landlords and real estates. We've reached almost 300,000 people with the don't DIY campaign and that's only since June this year. We've had 101,000 people visit the electrical safety community webpage.

Again a new initiative of the Office of Industrial Relations which only came live in October of last year. We've conducted 65 electrical equipment examinations to make sure the electrical equipment you bring into your home is safe for you and your family. And we've had almost 43,000 views of the electrical contracting self audit tool. And finally while I'm on the topic of numbers, some months ago we started the E safe apprentice edition with over 8,000 subscribers. If you have apprentices in this industry I urge you to encourage them to sign up to this esafe edition which will keep them up-to-date that are especially targeted to them, their wellbeing, and their safety.

As the Executive Director for the Electrical Safety Office there are a number of emerging trends that are of significant concern. And we have committed this year to a number of key priority areas. These include the hazard of working around energized parts and the risk of injuries or death as a result of an arc flash, contact with overhead lines, neutral failures, clearance from ground and structures for overhead lines, and compliance with installation safety standards and compliance with the sale of safe electrical equipment. But truly it is an amazing and exciting time to be in this industry.

We have the emergence of renewable technologies that we didn't see five, 10, 15 years ago. PV solar, solar and wind farms, and the development of technologies around batteries, battery storage, independently owned small scaled generation and storage of power, the emerging use of hydrogen, electric vehicles, and in some areas they're working on the development of electric commuter airplanes.

Who would've thought just 118 years since the Wright brothers first took flight we would be looking at flying in an airplane completely powered by batteries? The pace of this technology is impressive, but with all change comes challenge. And one of them is for the regulator and the industry to ensure we are able to keep up to date with what's happening and to keep on top of these emerging technologies to make sure we're safe.

Thank you again for joining us today. Each and every day your industry helps Queenslander's keep the lights on, powers our hospitals, our schools, and our workplaces.

And I share with you the same message that I have said many times this week for Electricity Safety Week. If you take one thing away it is that the professionalism, competence, safety and well being of this industry is not about each of us individually but about every one of us working together. Work safe, home safe. Thank you.

Chris Bombolas

Thank you very much Donna. And I can't believe that it's 118 years since Wilbur and Orville Wright took flight for the very first time. Yeah, time gets away from us. Again Donna will be part of our panel very very shortly. And I would encourage you to ask our panel members questions.

We've got three 100 dollar trade equipment vouchers to give away. It's pretty easy. All you need to do is type your name and question in the Q and A box to the left of your screen.

Let's move into another area. And it's time to welcome in Noel Gosgrove. And he is the General Manager of CV Services Group. Noel will discuss what he's learnt when he faced with the electrical licensing Committee for an arc flash injured one of their electrical workers.

Noel has been with CV for over 15 years and has 35 years of industry experience. He is responsible for the effective operation of the whole electrical construction division including the delivery of revenues of over 45 million dollars. Quite a budget there, Noel. And leading a team of 160 people and that's a team as well, across four locations.

Welcome Noel, looking forward to your talk.

Noel Cosgrove

So good morning everybody.

Today I just wanna talk about fronting the electrical licensing committee. Look particularly my experience and what I've learnt through that. I've just recap on that, I'm the General Manager of CV Services, the electrical Construction Division. I've been with the company about 15 years now. I've seen it significantly grow as in business. We have close to 170 people now because we've got a lot of work on and 135 of them are in the field.

We do and work across a lot of sites, residential, commercial, and industrial. Nearly all of them being in Queensland, and staying on top of our safety and compliance is a challenge. I believe we do it well, I believe we have good systems in place. We have a great team of people from our apprentices all the way up to the managers. And we have just a good safety management compliance system.

However we do get incidents.

And today I wanna speak about particularly one of them incident so. So we've been in front of the committee twice.

Once in 2018 from an electrical shock incident. It resulted in us enrolling in the LEAD program which to be honest brought real good benefits to our safety culture in the company. But the second incident in 2019 is the one I really wanna talk about. This was an incident which was an arc flash incident. We had a worker who was installing a CT meter on a switchboard. He missed a step in the process. When he energized that switch the meter faulted and I think you may be able to see from the picture that his hand was above the meter as he energized the switch and the arc flash caused a significant burn to his hand.

Look that was pretty traumatic for him, it was pretty traumatic for us as a business. You know we really challenged ourselves after this incident and really looked into our systems a lot more. The SO conducted an investigation into the incident, but we also conducted our own internal investigation as well. We wanted to see if there was a step that we could've done that would've stopped this incident happening.

And to be honest, after the investigation we believe we fundamentally didn't do anything wrong, but we found out that if we would've implemented another process and stopped the switching of that switch when it happened that we would've resolved this incident.

So when we fronted the ELC in 2009 we explained to them how the incident happened and we explained what we'd done in the investigation and what procedure we'd put in place. And generally what it was is that we will not allow anyone in our business to switch a switch in excess of 250 amps where we believe there's a high fault current. We have a specific stock process. It has to be peer reviewed, it has to be signed off by a manager, and there's a number of steps they have to take. I will say we've had that in place about two years now and I know in at least one occasion that has stopped an issue so.

So when we presented that to the committee they looked at it and no disciplinary action was taken. So of them two incidents I just wanna talk a little bit about the positive and negatives and what we saw from it.

So look, standing in front of the committee makes you accountable, there is no doubt about it. I believe there's a lack of accountability in our industry. Really standing up there and explaining your systems and explaining what you do does make you accountable. We have 170 people. If we get restrictions on our license it affects the employment of 170 of our people.

So we can't take that chance. And for me that's our individual accountability, but I think as a business we need far more accountability. It was good to see yesterday in the safety summit that the lead was that we're gonna bring in a more compulsory continuing professional development. And I can't wait for that to happen. I think to be honest it's something that we missed and it's long overdue. I still have me own views on the way I'd do that but we'll wait and see what comes out.

Also I think the ELC's not there to punish you. It helps you, it helped us, it put us on the LEAD program. That brought significant safety culture change to our business. And to be honest we're still working on that program now. And I believe there's more courses coming up shortly for some of our newer supervisors.

The negatives. There's a feel and again this isn't just me, I've spoke to other contractors, but there's a feel that if you've not got everything right you get hammered for it. If the I's are not dotted, your T's are not crossed, something's not signed off correctly you will get hammered, there's no doubt about it. And particularly for us as a business that puts so much work in our compliance and safety and our safety culture and trying to do the right thing we feel this infer. And we also feel that if a worker makes a mistake it's still the company's problem.

You know we do a lot of work with our guys and skills assessments on compliance observations, and we give 'em direction on how to do the task and sometimes they come into work and they make a mistake and we still feel that's our problem. And look I still have an issue with self reporting. I don't think self reporting works. I think someone said to me once that it's like driving down the street in your car and speeding and then realizing you're speeding and going to the police station to tell them you speed and accept your fine. It just doesn't work.

I honestly believe if the ESO wants to look at that we need to do something different in our industry. So that's my views on fronting the commission. I do think the ELC gives us that accountability. I do think we need something better in it.

I wanna thank you to listening to my side of it. If you do have any questions please just put 'em in the chat and I'll end a change afterward so thank you again. Cheers.

Chris Bombolas

Thanks to Noel. And as he mentioned if you do have questions for him or any of our panel members use the chat box. We've got those trade equipment vouchers going. And it's really easy. Type your name, your question, and we'll get to as many as we can during the chat a little later on.

Time now to welcome in Michael Gibson Director of Fields Services from the ESO. He's going to talk about arc flash. Michael's had 35 years of experience in the electrical industry and 20 years at the ESO. His role is to lead the delivery of inspection and enforcement strategies to enforce and monitor compliance of duty holders with electrical safety legislation. And today it's all about arc flashes. Michael.

Michael Gibson

Thank you Chris. Good morning everybody. And I'd like to thank Noel for doing your presentation Noel and sharing that experience. I've only got a short amount of time so I really wanna hit a couple of key marks and key appointments around this arc flash management.

The critical part of it is about the understanding that working on your knee and is the hazard. And everything else associated with that is the risk. So we really want you to start thinking about what is your undertaking? What is your business doing? What equipment and what size is the equipment your industry or you're working in? Whether you're doing commercial, industrial, and are your workers required to access equipment with really high fault current?

Testing and fault finding, the type of activities you're doing where you are working on or near these parts is where you need to rethink your safety process around how we gonna manage this risk.

Working on or near and it's a constant message that we're gonna have, is the same risks and rule require the same controls? So whether you're doing live work or what we used to call enjoyers work, or whether you're purely just working near live exposed parts, same risks same controls. So what have we got there?

Electrical work. I can't even read it. Okay. Our main, I've already said that, right. The process are in place. Now working on or near energized parts, oh I should've brought my glasses. Sorry. Sorry. Oh goodness. Am I still on the camera somewhere? Yeah sorry sorry about that. Back on track, right. Now we know you're working on or near live parts is the activity we're talking about. We can't always follow that message where we always talk about working de-energized. That's our constant message to everybody and we'll never drop that message. Working de-energized as much as you can is the priority.

But in our industry in the work we do as electricians there's a lot of activities that we can't do de-energize. We know what they are. We often work de-energize. We worked to prove an isolation point. We do testing and fault finding often on live equipment. And we do actions in regard to racking out circuit breakers and switching and isolating equipment so. We just wanna talk about what actually an arc flash or an arc fault is.

Often it is the break down that will compromise of insulation through equipment damage and contamination. It's a work practice, and I wanna go back to that. It can be a failure during a switching of a device. And often it's caused by poor maintenance in older equipment. So you're getting hot contacts, loose joints that are gonna get hot and you're gonna get a runaway current and it's gonna file. So the biggest one we wanna talk about is the work practice. It's you need a face between your worker and working on that energized part. Got it. Over the last 12 months we've had 10 arc flash injuries that we've been investigating. A lot of those injuries and a lot of the arc comes investigations have identified that the workers and the workers and the workers activities has been associated for that incident. So it's about a failure in a system, it's a failure in a process. And a couple of other slides ahead we'll look at some of those circumstances that are causing this failure. Arc flash hazard management. It's the priority up front to understand what is the hazard. So if I think about the hazard, how what do I need to put in place?

So I'm looking at identifying the assets that I'm expecting my workers to work on. And they could be the switchboards. If I'm a maintenance company, the switchboards that I'm working on. If I do a lot of domestic work, if I do a lot of industrial and large style commercial construction that type of thing, then I'd talk about this quantifying the hazard and calculating the arc flash incident energy. That is a very complex process but it's really basic. The bigger the equipment you're working on the greater the potential energy's gonna be there and the greater risk for you and your workers and harm if something goes wrong.

So we want you to assess that risk and we want you to develop those risk treatments. Everyone knows our risk assessment process and the hierarchy of controls. We start elimination we go right down to PPE. And that's the same with arc flash risk management. Wherever we can we'll always, the ESO is always recommending de-energizing equipment, but you need to work out what are those controls and where your hierarchy of controls can fit with the work you do. It's not always possible to work de-energize. We've always spoken about testing and fault finding so that's not always possible. It's not always possible for you to substitute the equipment you're gonna be working on. It's there, you've walked into a business.

So you've gotta work on that equipment. You can use barriers, you can use other controls, and you can start putting safe systems that work together. It's really really important we always expect PPE and the PPE's gotta be suitable for the environment you're working in. And the PPE will be affected by the level of arc flash risk. But you've gotta remember it's only there to reduce our injury to a curable level. It's not there to save your life. It's really critical it's a very important factor.

Okay. This one of the critical areas that we've probably identified in some of the investigations we've undertaken. It's the human factors that are affecting good process and procedures. It's the lack of training, it's the errors or mistakes occurring, it's complacency.

And we've spoken about it today whether there's mental health or distraction issues, all your workers need to understand that sometimes they're gonna have to step back. They're gonna have to walk away from a task 'cause it's just gonna be too risky and you're gonna be too distracted to do it properly. The last thing we wanna talk about is the actual legislation.

So I think it's really important for people to understand working on energized equipment is prohibited except for a very defined set of circumstances. So don't forget it's prohibited, it's against the law. Those circumstances described in section 18 of the regulations.

If you can't meet those circumstances and you can't put in place your decent risk assessment, your persons are competent, you got safe systems at work, then you are not meeting legislative requirements and you do risk prosecution. The Electrical Safety Act and Regulations calls up quality codes of practice. There's some really good standards out there about safe working on low voltage electrical installations. We highly recommend that people access those documents.

The last point is that working on or near live parts is the same risk. Put your treatments in place. And manage that risk. And if I had my glasses on that would've gone a lot better.

Chris Bombolas

Thanks Gibbo.

Michael Gibson

Thank you.

Chris Bombolas

Maybe that's an important lesson that we all need to remember is take our glasses to work Michael okay? Thanks Gibbo.

He's joined the panel as has the commissioner for Electrical Safety Greg Skyring. Remember if you've got a question to ask our panel members we've got Paul, Donna, Noel, Michael, and Greg.

There's three 100 dollar trade equipment vouchers to give away. I know we've got a number of questions already. All you need to do is type your name and question in the Q and A box to the right of your screen. Let's head to the questions.

And the first one is from Alex to Paul. Paul if you are worried about a mate who seems depressed or not himself what should you do if you have asked if they are okay and they've just brushed you off. This happens quite a lot.

Paul Spinks

Yes Chris look that is a big one. And especially on days like today R U OK day mates will often ask mates if they're okay and of course the mate will invariably turn around and say something smart back.

In fact I was at a mine and exactly that happened on R U OK last year when someone turned around and asked his mate if he was okay. And his mate turned around and told him to get stuffed.

So of course that's what mates do, they have a bit of fun with that question. But we've gotta be a bit clever than that and a bit smarter than that, we've gotta delve deeper. So I would say that's where the help thing comes in. We've gotta deepen, we've gotta find ways to get into people's psyche and deepen up the conversation.

So if you are with your mate and you're talking about R U OK day just sit there and chat and get deeper. Be vulnerable yourself, create a trust environment. And you'll find once you start sharing, they start sharing, and you can get into places and get underneath people. And from there you can start taking actions and put plans into place to look after your mate. So yeah. Thanks.

Chris Bombolas

All right this one's from Veronica. The reported incidents of electrical apprentices receiving an electrical shock has increased over the past two years. How can an electrical contractor contribute to reducing this type of incident and ensure an electrical apprentice is safe at work? Who wants this one? Gibbo.

Michael Gibson

Thanks Chris.

Chris Bombolas

You don't need your glasses for this either.

Michael Gibson

No I can relax now. Really good question.

And I think it's really important to understand in the first six months of an apprenticeship they cannot work anywhere near there's a risk of receiving electric shock. And then following that

I think you really gotta have a strong program about mapping their competency against their supervision against their training. If you don't get those three right there's that risk. So they've gotta learn to test and fault find, it's part of the process, but I think it's gotta be something that's developed in stages.

So yeah get their competency tracked, get their supervision and make sure their supervisors are competent. And then you can track that work program to manage that risk.

Chris Bombolas

All right. Another question here is from Tim to Noel. Noel did your risk assessment procedure change as well? You gave us you know what you guys did and how you managed it, and how does your business handle specific tasks when arc flash risk is known and or unknown?

Noel Cosgrove

So yes risk assessment did slightly change. I will say a risk assessment was done. A step was missed in this particular process. Look we mainly do work on new installations. So. The way we reduce our arc flash risk is through our authority to switch. So we just won't allow anyone to switch a supply where we believe there's a risk of arc flash so them high fault currents. And that's what we do.

We've mapped that down into a current rating and we put a procedure in our business to do it. So it really has reduced that risk for us as a business. And as I said I think I said you know we potentially did stop a potential issue if that in the last two years just by putting that process in place.

Chris Bombolas

Yeah we've got a number of questions but we're running out of time. So let's make this the last question of the morning. And we thank you all for joining us and putting in your questions. This is the last one we'll answer here. We will get back to other questions online.

What strategies, this comes from Jaden, what strategies or resources can contractors utilize when training their tradespeople to educate, manage, support their apprentices effectively? SO let's get it right. We're talking about getting things right. Gibbo.

Michael Gibson

Yes Chris. I think I mean obviously I've previously spoken about understanding legislation is really the important step is what is black and white in legislation. And some of those supporting documents and process and procedures that come off legislation we have really good codes of practice. There's a really good standard about safe work on low voltage electrical installations. And the critical part of the whole process is apprentices learning the process about risk management. 'Cause you can have a lot of process procedures but there's risks that are very much part of thar process.

So manage that risk management procedures and then look at your supervisors and how they are going to interact. Really good supervisor that level at each of the levels and stage that training. So there's competency levels that are achieved by the apprentice and map those competency levels.

Chris Bombolas

All right.

Michael Gibson

Thank you.

Chris Bombolas

Time as I said is of the wing. Thank you for joining us. I would've liked Greg and Donna to get questions but you got off Scott free today so you're lucky in this respect.

Paul if I could just wind up with you. We really appreciate your presentation today, but I think it's important that you just quickly in 30 seconds I'll give you, tell us we love the two second rule where we take time to think about a response so that we take the emotion out of it and we come up with a fresh approach. But help, it's an important word, action and an acronym. Can you explain what the acronym is just one more time quick.

Paul Spinks

Yeah just one more time. So yeah the H stands for look for any signs of hopelessness or helplessness. The E stands for look for a emotional changes. Are people more angry or are they crying or different altered behaviors? Look for any loss, any signs of loss of appetite, loss of connection, loss of friends. And the P is for any physical changes. is their hair changed, is their skin blemished, is there you know dressing you know unusually. They would all be the big ticket items to me that we have to crack them open and dig deep and try and find out what's going on.

Chris Bombolas

Thanks again Paul. We appreciate you taking part today. Your presentation of course being part of the panel. And to Donna and to Michael, Greg and to Noel, thank you again for joining us. We appreciate you input. For you who've watched us at home or at work, thanks.

I hope you got a lot out of this. And if you took part with some of those questions winners of today's 100 dollar trade equipment vouchers will be contacted directly. Now the good news is there's another five 100 dollar trade equipment vouchers up for grabs as part of our Facebook competition that test your electrical knowledge, so it's a little bit harder this one. Get in quick as that ends tomorrow.

Today's webinar was recorded and will be available to watch and share with your friends or colleagues that may have missed it at E-S-O dot Q-L-D dot gov dot A-U. That's also where you'll find a whole heap of other resources and information on electrical safety.

Keep your eye out for an email from us over the next few days to complete a feedback survey about today's event. We really value your feedback.

So if you could spare around two minutes we'd really appreciate that. It helps us formulate events in the future. In this email you'll receive more information on Paul's presentation. And also a reminder to complete the apprentice safety culture survey for your chance to win well we got lots of stuff to win, a 200 dollar trade equipment gift voucher.

Check in with your mate's ladies and gentlemen, that's the message for today. Always always check in with your mates, friends, loved ones, and remember today is R U OK day.

And realistically it's okay not to be okay and to look for help and to offer help. And most importantly work safe, home safe.

[End of Transcript]


  • Noel Cosgrove, CV Services Group
  • Michael Gibson, Electrical Safety Office
  • Donna Heelan, Electrical Safety Office
  • Greg Skyring, Commissioner for Electrical Safety
  • Paul Spinks, The wake-up call