In the workplace, we depend on electrical equipment to complete a wide range of tasks freely using computers and phones, a range of hand tools and other operational equipment. Despite the frequent use and confidence we have in such equipment, it is easy to overlook the potential hazards they pose if proper precautions are not taken into account.
In 2021-2022, SafeWork SA received 348 notifications associated with electric shock incidents, which was an increase of 9 per cent on the previous year and 38 per cent more than the 252 notifications in 2019-2020. (https://www.safework.sa.gov.au/news-and-alerts/news/news/2022/rise-in-electric-shock-incidents-sparks-construction-industry-update)
It is crucial for all South Australians to recognise the potential dangers when using electrical equipment and to manage the risk and maintain a safe working environment. Testing and tagging companies such as Testel test appliances and other electrical devices to identify faults as a necessary precaution to maintain electrical integrity and help keep users safe from electrical dangers.
Thousands of near misses and accidents resulting from electrical faults occur and unfortunately, some of these accidents are fatal. The underlying cause quite often is due to the gradual degradation within the electrical item. If not adequately addressed through proper maintenance the fault can escalate and lead to an electric shock.
To help prevent these accidents, it is imperative to regularly test and tag all electrical equipment to ensure its safety. Testing involves using a Portable Appliance Tester (PAT) to verify the appliance’s proper functioning and absence of damage. Tagging involves attaching a label to the appliance, indicating the date of the last test and specifying when the next test should be conducted.
The practice of testing and tagging electrical equipment serves to safeguard equipment in the workplace and effectively minimises electrical hazards and reduces the risk of electric shock and fire. By implementing this maintenance program, potential risks can be proactively identified enabling preventative management measures and risk mitigation. Essentially, it prevents or at least minimises electrical-related accidents before they become apparent.
Since the introduction of Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws in Australia, SafeWork
SA has been responsible for state based regulatory compliance and enforcement. Their charter includes developing a framework to ensure that all workers are safe from potential hazards in the workplace including those associated to electrical equipment.
The types of electrical safety issues identified include:
Ensuring the safety of workers in South Australia involves implementing mandatory testing and tagging as a means of managing potential hazards. This practice serves to inform workers about risks associated with specific materials and enables them to take necessary precautions whilst at work. Complying with the requirements set by SafeWork SA is of the utmost importance as it directly contributes to the safety and well-being of workers in South Australia.
As an employer or business owner, it is your responsibility to ensure the regular inspection and testing of electrical equipment by a qualified profession is conducted in your workplace. This responsibility becomes more critical when the equipment is exposed to conditions that may potentially damage it or reduce its expected lifespan. Examples of such conditions include moisture, heat, vibration, mechanical damage, corrosive chemicals, or dust exposure. By proactively addressing these factors, you can help maintain the safety integrity of the electrical equipment in your workplace.
Electrical fires pose a significant danger and are more prevalent than one may think. Industrial and manufacturing businesses in particular, handle flammable liquids that can result in an explosion upon introduction of an ignition source such as a spark.
Another cause of electrical fires is faulty wiring that sparks behind walls. Moreover, fires can be initiated by employees misusing appliances or equipment and this can occur in office environments. Healthcare facilities face a higher risk of electrical faults and fire due to the extensive array of electrical equipment particularly when sockets and circuits are overloaded.
Testing and tagging electrical equipment identifies faults allowing safety officers to organise corrective action and review procedures and implement techniques to minimise controllable faults. In addition proper maintenance of electrical equipment will reduce the risk of equipment damage and fire which would be the result of overheating or arcing from worn or damaged parts.
Workplaces where electrical equipment is present has a level of exposure and carries a potential risk of electricity-related accidents. That is why ensuring regular testing and tagging of electrical equipment represents an important safety practice. These procedures are not only legally required they also minimise the risk of injury and the risk of fire.
The standard code AS/NZS 3760 is the Australian standard that provides comprehensive guidelines and reinforces requirements for the test and tag industry. It specifically focuses on controlling or at the very least managing the electrical safety of appliances and equipment in the workplace. By adhering to this standard, businesses can establish a robust framework and confidence in thoroughly conducting the correct testing and tagging procedures.
It is important to note that testing and tagging should be performed exclusively by professionals or by trained technicians at the very least. Skilled personnel in the industry possess the requisite expertise and experience to accurately identify potential hazards. They are also equipped with the tools and equipment to properly carry out the task safely and effectively. They foster a safer working environment for all parties involved. Entrusting testing and tagging responsibilities to professionals ensures that the process is conducted with the appropriate level of precision adhering to the necessary standards and in turn enhancing overall workplace safety.
Managing electrical risks in the workplace
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