The Electrical Safety Project is a focus group comprised of members with wide and varied experience in the electrical industry, and who share a passion for safety.  The Project’s aim is to review safety in the industry in general and select specific issues where performance can be improved.

The Project seeks to promote and communicate common sense and practical ideas to improve electrical installations’ compliance and electrical practices and safety in our industry.

Project members meet regularly to discuss issues of concern and share knowledge about electrical safety issues and practices in the electrical industry, both for consumers and workers on the job.  This extends to occupational competence and electrical compliance of electrical workers in the industry.

The ESP supports activities and arrangements that improve the quality, standard and safety of electrical work practices and ensure electrical installations and their components are installed, tested, commissioned, diagnosed, altered, added, repaired, replaced, removed, disconnected, reconnected, and maintained in accordance with best practice. 

The Project has undertaken a series of industry surveys and produced a series of research papers that has led the group to establish a Charter to help guide its work and a Position Paper to help communicate the Project’s objectives and outline issues and suggested actions that should be implemented to improve electrical safety for workers and consumers. A copy of the Charter and Position Paper can be downloaded from the links below under section ‘Resources to download’.

The Project will focus much of its attention on identifying strategies and practices that help electrical workers, their employers and users to improve their understanding of their safety obligations in accordance with electrical legislation, the WHS Act, and any supporting regulation, standards, codes of practice and guidance advisories and resources.  Also, the Project is interested in the role of regulatory bodies that administer and support electrical licensing arrangements related to such work.

Group members believe that the industry needs a coherent road map to facilitate proactive response to identified safety issues and to support the development and implementation of timely and effective solutions.

Broad initiatives

To improve electrical and worker safety as well as the standard of work quality, four broad initiatives have been identified as priority areas for the Project to focus on:

  1. supporting electricians/employers/electrical contractors and those in training (e.g. apprentices) to meet their safety obligations;
  2. supporting consumers and integrity of the electricity network;
  3. promoting competency verification of electricians and assuring their continued competency over time; and
  4. improving regulation of the industry.

Objectives

The Project’s main objectives are:

  • To share learnings in best practice electrical safety practices and associated arrangements within the electrical industry.
  • To establish positive and constructive relationships with regulatory bodies, authorities, agencies, Australian Standards’ committees and employer/employee representative bodies in order to develop a common understanding of electrical safety issues and their management.
  • To be recognised as a respected voice in research and identification of implementation problems and the development of policies and strategies to improve and maintain electrical installation compliance, electrical worker quality of work and competency, and electrical safe work practices through constructive relationships with related agencies, representative bodies, training providers and training authorities.

Principles

The activities the Project will pursue to further the objectives, are set out in the Charter. Key activities include:

  • Investigating safety issues in the electrical industry through discussions with industry representatives, conducting surveys and reviewing literature, including statistics generated by industry regulators.
  • Developing and submitting policy papers on strategies and processes that aim to improve electrical safety and safe work practices.
  • Supporting the safety of users of electrical installations.

Regulatory structures

The members of the Electrical Safety Project consider that, at present, the regulatory structures and arrangements including support resources, fall short of the need to:

  • assist electrical workers and electrical contractors with compliance,
  • secure basic improvements to industry worker safety,
  • secure safe and compliant electrical installations that ensure the integrity of the electricity network and improve consumer protection, and
  • ensure currency of competence of electrical licensed workers and contractors is maintained.

Key issues

In this light the Position Paper developed by the Project has identified the following issues and developed suggested actions to address them:

  • Consumer safety
    • License Renewal for Electricians
      • Principles for establishing a currency verification system
        • Continuing Education (CE)
        • Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
      • Context to Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
      • Suggested action
    • Licence Renewal for Electrical Contractors
      • Safe Work Procedures
      • Supervision of electrical workers and apprentices
      • Proposed action
    • Other Consumer Safety Issues
    • Electrical Testing
      • Suggested action
  • A Single Energy Regulator for NSW
    • Regulation of Electrical Safety
      • Office of Fair Trading (OFT)
      • SafeWork NSW
      • DNSPs
    • A Single Energy Regulator

Protecting consumers

Electrical installations must be confirmed as safe and the protection systems working as intended, before a job is handed over to an owner/customer. This means, they must be tested and confirmed to meet Australian standards and regulatory requirements by competent electricians. It also calls for existing electrical installations to be examined and updated, if a potential electrical hazard exists.

Of particular concern with older installations is equipping them with lifesaving safety switches (RCDs), as recommended by Australia’s electrical regulators. In this area the Project’s first initiative was to publish a model best practice guide for recording and reporting test results to consumers. This Guide is now available and downloadable on the ESP website, which has been established as part of the Project’s objectives.

Safety of workers on the job is also a key concern of the Project. Members are all aware of the cost pressures prevailing in the construction industry and electrical industry in general, which often lead to short cuts being taken including, most notably, the increased use of unqualified ‘non-tradies’.  This latter practice significantly increases the risk to consumers and allied workers.

Given the breadth of issues related to electrical safety, the Project has also established a website and uploaded the latest information the Project is working on. Over time this will become a “go to” site for employers, electricians and consumers wanting to ensure the highest safety standards whether of electrical installations or workplace practices are known and maintained. A new section too, has recently been added for consumers – building owners. The website is http://esproject.com.au/.

The responsibility for workers’ safety legally rests with employers. However, employers face an uphill battle keeping abreast of changes in legislation, codes, standards and new equipment calling for new work practices. An initiative of the Project in this area will be to develop criteria for model “Safe Work Procedures” that employers, particularly small businesses and self-employed, can use to develop for their businesses to ensure that their workers are aware of, and competent in, managing risks associated with different tasks and different work environments. An array of model SWPs have been developed, listed below are now available on the ESP website to download and adapt.

Training and competency

The Project will also explore options to support and improve the quality of training provided by organisations training  electrical apprentices, as well as advocating for the introduction of current competency training for qualified electricians who may not have received any further training since they completed their apprenticeship and were first licensed.  This could well have been a few decades ago.

Group members consider it important that electricians be asked to provide evidence of their current competence when their licences are renewed, as well as advancing their technical proficiency through continuous professional development.

The Project intends to set model criteria of best practice in these and other areas and to provide support for all government agencies, industry bodies and consumers concerned with safety in our industry.

A first step has been to develop a draft guide to help electrical supervisors develop an understanding of the industry’s suggested best practice for supervising and mentoring electrical apprentices. The NSW ‘Electrical Apprenticeship Supervisor Guide‘ is under review by ESP members, and when finalised will be submitted to the NSW UE ITAB Board of Directors for public release.

Resources to download

  1. ESP Charter (ESP endorsed – 18No2021)
  2. ESP Position Paper (ESP endorsed – 18 Nov 2021)
  3. Electrical Apprenticeship Supervisor Guide (ESP endorsed – 18 Nov 2021)

Note: to be submitted to NSW UE ITAB Electrotechnology Sector Advisory Committee (SAC) and NSW UE ITAB Board for final approval

Safe Work Procedures (SWPs)

The Project website aims to provide electrical safety information, as well, through the Group, key papers and research activities for public review and feedback. Current papers out for review and feedback include the following (ticked):

1ELECTRICAL WORK
1.01Selection and use of test instruments
1.02Test for de-energised
1.03Low voltage electrical isolation
1.04Commissioning and fault finding
1.05Live work
1.06Safe Approach Distances (SADs)
1.07Arc Flash Protection
1.07.1 ✔Arc flash PPE table
1.08Installation of mains & cable
1.09Installation of Pyrotenax cables
1.1Heat shrinking cable joints
1.11Installation of conduits in walls and ceilings
1.12Installation of cables in concrete floors
1.13Installation of buried conduits
1.14Cutting conduits and cables
1.15Lamps and outlets:
1.16Fluoro lamps replacement and disposal
1.17Removal of PCBs
1.18Disconnection/reconnection of equipment
1.19Current transformer electrical installations
1.2Removal of out-of-service equipment
1.21High voltage work
1.22High voltage switching
1.23Connection generators to distribution mains
2WORKSHOP & TOOLS
2.01Manual handling
2.02Use of hand and power tools
2.03Use of pedestal drills
2.04Hot work – welding and cutting
2.05Grinding and abrasive wheels
3HAZARDOUS MATERIALS
3.01Asbestos Minor Works
3.02Hazardous & dangerous materials
4WORK ENVIRONMENTS
4.1Height Work
Access
4.11 ✔Step ladders
4.12 ✔Straight/extension ladders
4.13 ✔Fixed ladders
Passive protection
4.14 ✔Mobile scaffolding
4.15 ✔Fixed scaffolding
4.16 ✔Elevated work platforms
4.17 ✔Work on roofs – restraint technique
4.18 ✔Fall arrest equipment
4.2Other environments
4.21 ✔Work in confined spaces
4.22Work in restricted/ceiling spaces
4.23Work in excavations/trenches
4.24Heat and UV radiation
4.25Cold conditions
4.26Work with lasers
4.27Noise
4.28Buried services
4.29Work near high pressure gas lines
4.3Hazardous areas
4.31Battery rooms
5PEOPLE
5.01Personal competence
5.02PPE
6MITIGATING CONSEQUENCE OF RISKS
6.01First aid
6.02CPR
6.03Fire fighting – portable extinguishers
6.04Evacuations
6.05Notifications

In relation to the safe work procedures (SWPs) , the aim is to make these SWPs, and more as they are developed and validated, available to all employers in the electrical industry (particularly small and self-employed) for download and customisation.  In this regard, contact Gidley at gidley@electrain.com.au for more information.

Visit and download the papers: http://esproject.com.au/

Join the ESP

Project members would appreciated any comments that can make a practical difference to safety in our industry or volunteers interested in becoming a member of the Group and in participating and contributing their views to the development and verification of best practice guidance materials and safe work procedures. Contact Tony Palladino to register your interest and become a member of the Project. Email: tony@uensw.com.au Mobile: 04 3739 6363