SafeWork NSW reports that between 2012 and 2015 over 2,000 workers were injured during electrical work. Six were permanently disabled and five died. The biggest dangers are shock, arc flashes and arc blasts.
Safety is paramount in all workplaces
An electrical workplace accident affects not only the employee(s) involved but also other staff, your business, the employee’s family and potentially, your operation and business reputation.
Not only do you owe it to your employees to ensure that they are working in a safe workplace, but as a Person Conducting a Business Undertaking (PCBU), you have a legal responsibility to do so.
Is your workplace a hostile environment?
Your workplace doesn’t have to be a war zone to be considered hostile as far as electrical safety is concerned. If the electrical equipment in your workplace is exposed to moisture, heat, vibration, mechanical damage, corrosive chemicals or dust, then it’s considered a hostile environment (for the electrical equipment).
If the equipment is moved around (portable power tools, vacuum cleaners, etc.), then you need to ensure regular testing. Even if your electrical equipment is static, eg POS terminals, you don’t explicitly have to test it, but you need to ensure a safe workplace for your employees and customers. A risk assessment is a good place to start.
Managing electrical risks in the workplace
According to the Model Code of Practice for Managing Electrical Risks in the Workplace, published by Safe Work Australia, a PCBU must manage risks to health and safety associated with electrical risks at the workplace.
In order to manage risk under the WHS Regulations, a duty holder must:
• identify reasonably foreseeable hazards that could give rise to the risk
• eliminate the risk, so far as is reasonably practicable
• if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk, minimise the risk so far as is reasonably practicable by implementing control measures
• maintain the implemented control measure so that it remains effective
• review, and if necessary revise, all risk control measures so as to maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a work environment that is without risks to health and safety.
This is why scheduling regular testing and tagging of electrical equipment in your workplace is so important. When ElectroTechnics Test & Tag conduct scheduled testing and tagging, we also provide advice on what to do next with any equipment that fails testing.
Regular inspection and testing
SafeWork NSW explains that if you’re a business or employer (or other PCBU) you must make sure that electrical equipment is regularly inspected and tested by a competent person to identify the damage, wear and detect electrical faults.
This means going beyond a simple visual inspection for common issues like exposed wires, damaged cables and burn marks. Professional visual inspection and electrical testing of electrical equipment can identify issues like current leakages and improper earthing.
All workplaces should have their electrical equipment tested and tagged per the inspection intervals outlined in the Australian Standards. Office spaces should schedule 5 yearly check-ups, as a minimum. SafeWork NSW, while only required to have 5 yearly check-ups of their office equipment, schedules annual testing.
Demonstrate you care
Having your electrical equipment tested and tagged regularly is a clear demonstration that you take your workplace’s electrical safety seriously. Not only will scheduled testing and tagging reduce the likelihood of an electrical workplace mishap, but also demonstrate that, as a PCBU, you have shown compliance with standards – perhaps even exceeded requirements by having inspections more often than legislated.
Are you covered?
If you can demonstrate regular testing and tagging takes place to ensure workplace safety then this may reduce your workplace insurance premium. (In some cases, this may be a requirement for obtaining workplace insurance in the first place.)
Keep in mind that not meeting your testing and tagging requirements can lead to fines. Regularly scheduled testing and tagging can bring you peace of mind in more ways than one.