Electrical work can put you at risk of contact with energised electrical parts. The risk of working near energised electrical parts can be as great as working on the parts themselves. Find out how to protect yourself and others from the risks.
What are energised electrical parts?
Energised electrical parts are parts that are electrically connected, have a source of voltage, or are electrically charged. Energised electrical parts are in electrical installations and electrical equipment.
What are the risks of energised electrical parts?
Even brief contact with electricity at 50 volts AC or 120 volts DC can have serious consequences to your health and safety. The most common electrical risks and causes of injury are electric shock causing injury or death; fire, arcing or explosion causing burns; and toxic gases causing illness or death.
High voltage shocks can also cause damage to internal organs and can cause falls from ladders or scaffolds. Other injuries from electric shock include muscle spasms, palpitations, nausea, vomiting and collapse.
The risks come from:
- working on or near electrical parts that have not been de-energised, isolated or locked out
- unidentified live permanent wiring
- contacting deteriorated, brittle or poorly installed live wiring
- using metal tools too close to live electrical wiring
- residual current devices (RCDs) not fitted or not protecting all circuits
- existing faults to earth wiring.
How do I manage the risks?
Workers and management can work together to reduce the risks of working on or near energised electrical parts. A safe place of work benefits everyone. Read more about how you can create safe work.
As a worker you have a responsibility under the Electrical Safety Act 2002 and Work Health and Safety Act 2011 to take reasonable care for your own health and safety and for others who may be affected by what you do or don’t do.
You must follow any reasonable health and safety instructions from supervisors. You should use equipment properly and follow safe work policies and procedures. If something is unclear, or you are uncertain, ask for an explanation.
For employers or persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), you have legal responsibilities as outlined in the Electrical Safety Act 2002 and Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) for the health and safety of every worker and visitor.
The four-step risk management process below will you to meet your responsibilities under these laws. Where the WHS Act and the Electrical Safety Act both apply the Electrical Safety Act takes priority.
You can also use the practical advice in the Electrical safety code of practice 2021 - Managing electrical risks in the workplace and the Electrical safety code of practice 2020 – Working near overhead and underground electric lines (PDF, 0.47 MB).
Four steps to manage risk
The first step is to identify the risks. This means finding all the relevant things and situations that may contribute to an incident. Think about what could go wrong and consider the consequences.
Inspect the worksite
- the type of equipment and work to be done
- the age of the equipment and electrical installation
- whether it is reasonably practicable to turn off the power (or whether the equipment needs to remain energised)
- proximity of the work to energised parts or other energised equipment
- the tools and equipment used to do the work, particularly their conductive properties
- environmental conditions, such as confined space, wet surfaces or unfavourable weather
- work that may impose additional risks, for example, welding or grinding that could damage adjacent electrical lines or equipment.
Talk to workers
Talk to others about the possible hazards. This includes workers who are always on site as well as those who are part of the electrical work crew.
Review information already available
You can review information such as regulations, codes of practice and standards related to electrical work in general.
Look for trends in information already available, such as workplace records, reports, worker complaints and injury compensation claims.
You can also find out about possible risks from regulators, industry associations, unions and safety consultants, or designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers.
Once you identify possible risks, make a risk assessment and decide:
- if there is a risk to you or others
- how severe a risk is
- how likely the hazard is to cause harm
- whether any effective control measures are already in place
- what actions you could take to control the risk
- how urgently you should act.
You can use this risk assessment template (DOCX, 0.02 MB) to guide you and record your assessments.
Once you’ve identified possible risks, put control measures in place. The best way to control risk is to remove the hazard completely. If that’s not possible, you must reduce the risk as much as possible.
You can do this by:
- de-energising the installation or part
- using appropriate lock-out and tag-out procedures at the circuit breaker or isolator
- putting physical control measures in place such as insulation and guarding
- using appropriate signage
- re-testing the circuit is de-energised before staring work
- only allowing a competent, experienced and licensed person to undertake the work
- ensuring appropriate PPE is worn.
Find the hierarchy of controls in How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB) or use the Managing electrical risks in the workplace code of practice 2021 (PDF, 1.25 MB)
When working near overhead or underground powerlines, there will be different specific hazards, so use Electrical safety code of practice 2020 – Working near overhead and underground electric lines (PDF, 0.47 MB).
Risk management is an ongoing process. You should check regularly to make sure the control measures are working. If you find problems, go through the steps again, review the information and decide whether you need new controls.
Under work health and safety laws you must review controls:
- when you become aware that a control measure is not working effectively
- before a change that might create a new risk
- when you find a new hazard or risk
- when your workers tell you that a review is needed
- after a health and safety representative requests a review.
Standards and compliance
- Electrical Safety Act 2002
- Electrical Safety Regulation 2013
- Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011
Codes of practice
- Managing electrical risks in the workplace code of practice 2021 (PDF, 1.25 MB)
- Electrical safety code of practice 2020 – Working near overhead and underground electric lines (PDF, 0.47 MB)
- How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB)