Did you know that according to statistics, in Australia, between the years 2006 and 2015, there were 142 deaths caused as a result of direct contact with electrical equipment using electricity? This is an average of 11 workers per year, that die of mishandled appliances that use electricity as a source of power. Almost 50% of these deaths have happened within the construction industry.
The information below provides insight to those who manage or work at a small construction site, to help them understand and inform them about electrical safety and offers some suggestions or ideas on how to control electrical risks while protecting your workers as well. It should give you a good idea of whether you have done everything you need to, reasonably, to ensure it is a safe environment for everyone.
Safety Risks and How to Eliminate Them in The Workplace
Most often than none, the risk of injury from electrical equipment comes from two factors, how it is used and the environment in which it is used. The first step in the process of minimizing risk is to do a regular check of all the equipment, appliances, workers, and new devices including the site layout.
Workers should always be provided with the right training and safety equipment especially at construction sites where heavy machinery and tools are used. Training does also include electrical equipment and safety procedures while using them. The ‘safe work Australia’ website, has detailed information about general electrical safety at the workplace for public access.
There are plenty of risks associated with working with electricity, directly or indirectly. The environment is one of the main criteria that affects this issue. For instance, damp surroundings or outdoor environments are more vulnerable than indoor and dry areas. When equipment becomes wet, it can either get damaged or weak or be susceptible to electric surges that may affect the user who can easily get shocked.
Small spaces that use appliances with earthed metalwork, for example inside bins or tanks are at risk in an electrical fault happens, thus affecting those operating it or inside it. Portable electrical equipment is also at risk to others and items such as sockets, cables, electrical connections of any sort, especially those that are damaged or vulnerable.
Equipment that is constantly moved is also at risk when it is plugged into an extension cable for instance.
The Role Of a PCBU
As per the Australian Fair Work Commissions a person or legal entity, who conducts a business is referred to as a PCBU. The term itself stands for ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’, and is known as PCBU in short. It can include anything from a department to the local government and any other business of undertaking. Further details about this can be found on their page here: https://www.fwc.gov.au/anti-bullying-benchbook/who-covered-workplace-bullying-laws/person-conducting-business-or-undertaking
In the context of a construction company, the PCBU is the person in charge of the management or workplace, and it is their responsibility to endure the safety of all their workers, permanent or temporary alike. Both the contractors and PCBU should always be aware of the environment they are working in and WorkSafe New Zealand, even recommends keeping records of everything to ensure efficiency.
Those in responsibility should ensure that any electrical installation is done by a licensed professional. In terms of connecting, modifying, or moving apparatus, this must always be left in the hands of those who are experienced and know what they are doing.
Electricians usually install permanent connections at the beginning of every construction project and even when properties are being renovated, for instance, their electrical cabling and wiring are done via the main connectors which bring power to the rest of the building. Sometimes there is a need for a switchboard to be installed into a part of the building, and this too would be taken on by the electricians.
Two of the many popular ways to ensure the safety of your workers on any construction site are mentioned below.
One of the main ways of keeping employees safe is via RCD-protection options. When connections and installations are part of the project plans, all the electrical equipment must be RCD-protected (Residual Current Device).
This means once the cabling and sockets, plugs, etc. are connected, they must then be fitted by an RCD which ensures it is protected and safe from anyone getting an electrical shock if it is touched. This is why items such as sockets are not left bare, they have covers, and also cables have insulation covering on top of them, sometimes more than one.
Adding an RCD-protection device to all appliances is essential and possibly one of the most important things you can add to electrical things. The function of these is to cut off the power automatically when a fault arises with tools or appliances. For instance, if you are using a lawnmower and you mistakenly cut through the cable and the wires are now exposed, leading to an overheating of the mower while running, the current that goes from the cable to the earth immediately gets cuts off.
A Test and Tagging
The other way of ensuring the complete safety of workers is via the test and tagging of all the equipment before it is put into use. This includes anything from big household appliances to the device’s construction workers use on-site like machinery and electrical components.
The role of the PCBU, as mentioned above, is to ensure the safety of workers, the other thing this involves is for them to make sure the tools they use are always kept safe and in proper working condition.
One way of doing this is by using the test and tag method. In New Zealand, regulations are surrounding this which most employees should know. When looking for a specialized service to hire when it is time to get all the gadgets tested, there is no better way to do this than go directly to the Electrical Testing Services, which are the licensed practitioners of this method and have the right tools to do the deed.
Doing it yourself is never recommended as there are steps and procedures to follow that are regulated directly from the authorities and if not done correctly would be putting your or your worker’s lives in danger.