Don’t be shocked by on-the-spot fines

By Michael Selinger on July 20th, 2017

In this day and age, we are all familiar with the silent killer that electricity poses in the workplace. Sadly, there are too many reports of workers being electrocuted or receiving an electric shock in the course of their employment.

To ensure businesses take these risks seriously, the Queensland safety regulator recently announced that it was implementing new electrical safety on-the-spot fines. In its media release it stated that these fines were necessary “to make sure employers put measures into place to keep workers safe while working around powerlines, following nine serious electrical incidents in the past 12 months”.

The head of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland Dr Simon Blackwood said that there were four deaths in 2016 as a result of working around powerlines. There were also a number of significant electric shocks and electrical burns that year, too.

And Queensland is not alone.

The fatalities report published by Safe Work Australia evidences a national problem with 4 per cent of all fatalities in 2015 having been related to contact with electricity. Although the trend in numbers of fatalities has been in a decline since 2003, there have been at least eight to 13 deaths a year from electrical incidents in that period.

All regulators focus on this issue and provide helpful information for employers. For example, SafeWork NSW sets out common steps you can take to control electrical risks in the workplace including:

  1. ensuring only appropriately licensed or registered electricians carry out electrical work;
  2. providing safe and suitable electrical equipment;
  3. inspecting leads for damage;
  4. providing enough socket outlets;
  5. ensuring power circuits are protected by the appropriate rated fuse or circuit breaker to prevent overloading;
  6. using battery-powered tools instead of mains-operated where possible;
  7. using lead stands or insulated cable hangers to keep leads off the ground;
  8. using cable protection ramps or covers to protect cables and cords, where applicable; and
  9. using residual current devices (RCDs).

And, in Queensland, you can expect that if you fail to adequately risk assess electrical hazards and put in place controls, then you may well receive a fine of up to $3,000. And the regulator has identified key workers and industries who are frequently exposed to the hazards of both overhead and underground powerlines being tree-loppers, billboard or signage installers, construction workers and those working in agriculture and farming.

The Health & Safety Handbook has one of its 70-plus chapters dedicated to electrical safety.

This extensive chapter outlines your obligations in regard to electrical safety under health and safety legislation, and explains how to ensure your employees work safely with electricity.

The Handbook chapter highlights the common risks of electrical hazards and explains how to manage those risks. It discusses the importance of having your own electrical safety policy and even has a checklist on what your electrical safety policy should include.

There’s information on how to ensure your electrical plant are safe for workers, including testing and inspection, and even step-by-step information about how to turn off an electrical installation so that it can be risk assessed.

That’s just some of the content contained in this highly educational chapter.

You can order your copy of the Health & Safety Handbook, written in plain English by the legal experts at Holding Redlich, on an obligation-free trial so you can check out all the information it contains risk-free, and see how it can help simplify your business.

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