Managing electrical risks in the workplace
Code of Practice
Safe Work Australia is an Australian Government statutory agency established in 2009. Safe Work Australia includes Members from the Commonwealth, and each state and territory, Members representing the interests of workers and Members representing the interests of employers.
Safe Work Australia works with the Commonwealth, state and territory governments to improve work health and safety and workers’ compensation arrangements. Safe Work Australia is a national policy body, not a regulator of work health and safety. The Commonwealth, states and territories have responsibility for regulating and enforcing work health and safety laws in their jurisdiction.
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1.1. What are electrical risks?. 7
1.2. What is electrical work?. 7
1.3. Who has health and safety duties in relation to electrical risks?. 8
1.4. What is involved in managing electrical risks at the workplace?. 11
2. The risk management process. 14
2.1. Identifying the hazards. 14
2.3. Controlling the risks. 17
2.4. Maintaining and reviewing control measures. 18
3. Specific hazards and control measures. 20
3.1. Unsafe electrical equipment and electrical installations at the workplace. 20
3.2. Inspecting and testing electrical equipment 21
3.3. Inspecting and testing equipment—construction and demolition sites. 25
3.4. Residual current devices. 25
4.1. General principles—verification of de-energised electrical equipment 32
4.2. Work on cables (including cutting cables) 33
5. Isolation, locking off and access. 34
5.1. Securing the isolation. 35
5.2. Altering isolation for testing, fault finding and re-energising. 40
5.4. Leaving unfinished work. 41
6. Energised electrical work. 42
6.1. Prohibition on energised electrical work. 42
6.2. Planning and preparation. 43
6.3. Carrying out energised electrical work. 44
6.4. Particular energised electrical work—testing and fault finding. 50
7. Working near energised electrical parts. 51
7.1. Planning and preparation. 51
7.2. Carrying out work near energised electrical parts. 52
8.1. Maintenance and inspection. 54
8.2. Ladders, scaffolds and similar equipment 54
8.3. Insulating barriers and insulating mats. 55
8.5. Personal protective equipment 57
9. High voltage electrical work. 59
9.1. Additional risks associated with high voltage. 59
9.2. Planning for high voltage installation work. 59
Appendix B—Advantages and disadvantages of non-portable and portable RCDs. 63
Non-portable RCDs installed at the main switchboard. 63
Non-portable RCDs installed at a socket outlet 63
Portable RCDs—portable plug type. 65
Portable RCDs—portable stand-alone unit 65
Appendix C—Risks associated with electrical work. 66
Appendix D—Preventative actions checklist 72
This Code of Practice on how to manage electrical risks in workplaces is an approved code of practice under section 274 of the Work Health and Safety Act (the WHS Act).
An approved code of practice provides practical guidance on how to achieve the standards of work health and safety required under the WHS Act and the Work Health and Safety Regulations (the WHS Regulations) and effective ways to identify and manage risks.
A code of practice can assist anyone who has a duty of care in the circumstances described in the code of practice. Following an approved code of practice will assist the duty holder to achieve compliance with the health and safety duties in the WHS Act and WHS Regulations, in relation to the subject matter of the code of practice. Like regulations, codes of practice deal with particular issues and may not cover all relevant hazards or risks. The health and safety duties require duty holders to consider all risks associated with work, not only those for which regulations and codes of practice exist.
Codes of practice are admissible in court proceedings under the WHS Act and WHS Regulations. Courts may regard a code of practice as evidence of what is known about a hazard, risk, risk assessment or risk control and may rely on the code in determining what is reasonably practicable in the circumstances to which the code of practice relates. For further information see the Interpretive Guideline: The meaning of ‘reasonably practicable’.
Compliance with the WHS Act and WHS Regulations may be achieved by following another method if it provides an equivalent or higher standard of work health and safety than the code.
An inspector may refer to an approved code of practice when issuing an improvement or prohibition notice.
Scope and application
This Code is intended to be read by a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU). It provides practical guidance to PCBUs on managing electrical risks in the workplace. It applies to all workplaces where a PCBU:
This Code may be a useful reference for other persons interested in the duties under the WHS Act and WHS Regulations.
This Code applies to construction and demolition sites, except if a requirement of the Code is dealt with in AS/NZS 3012:2010: Electrical installations – Construction and demolition sites. In that case you must comply with AS/NZS 3012:2010. Further information about construction work can be found in the Code of Practice: Construction work.
This Code does not apply to:
‘Extra-low voltage’ means voltage that does not exceed 50 volts alternating current (50 V a.c.) or 120 volts ripple-free direct current (120 V ripple free d.c.).
How to use this Code of Practice
This Code includes references to the legal requirements under the WHS Act and WHS Regulations. These are included for convenience only and should not be relied on in place of the full text of the WHS Act or WHS Regulations. The words ‘must’, ‘requires’ or ‘mandatory’ indicate a legal requirement exists that must be complied with.
The word ‘should’ is used in this Code to indicate a recommended course of action, while ‘may’ is used to indicate an optional course of action.
Electrical risks are risks of death, shock or other injury caused directly or indirectly by electricity. The most common electrical risks and causes of injury are:
Even the briefest contact with electricity at 50 volts for alternating current (V a.c.) or 120 volts for direct current (V d.c.) can have serious consequences for a person’s health and safety. High voltage shocks (involving more than 1000 V a.c. or 1500 V d.c.) can cause contact burns and damage to internal organs.
Electric shocks may also lead to other injuries, including falls from ladders, scaffolds or other elevated work platforms. Other injuries or illnesses may include muscle spasms, palpitations, nausea, vomiting, collapse and unconsciousness.
Workers using electricity may not be the only ones at risk—faulty electrical equipment and poor electrical installations can lead to fires that may also cause death or injury to others.
WHS Regulation 146
Meaning of electrical work
Electrical work means:
Electrical work does not include:
Electrical work does not include work on electrical equipment that is operated by electricity at extra-low voltage except electrical equipment that:
The WHS Regulations do not modify or otherwise change licensing or registration requirements (whichever applies) under state or territory electrical licensing laws.
For more information about the applicable electrical licensing or registration laws contact the local regulator in the relevant jurisdiction.
There are a number of duty holders who have a role in managing electrical risks. These include:
Workers and other persons at the workplace also have duties under the WHS Act, such as the duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety at the workplace.
A person can have more than one duty and more than one person can have the same duty at the same time.
Early consultation and identification of risks can allow for more options to eliminate or minimise risks and reduce the associated costs.
WHS Act section 19
Primary duty of care
WHS Regulation 147
A PCBU must eliminate electrical risks or, if that is not reasonably practicable, minimise the risks so far as is reasonably practicable.
The WHS Regulations include more specific requirements for PCBUs to manage the risks of hazards associated with electrical risks at the workplace. PCBUs at a workplace have a duty to ensure effective residual current devices (RCDs) are used, so far as is reasonably practicable, in certain high-risk environments as defined in the WHS Regulations.
PCBUs carrying out electrical work must comply with the prohibition on electrical work on energised electrical equipment subject to the defined exceptions. PCBUs may also have duties under local electrical safety laws. PCBUs should ensure electrical installation work is carried out by qualified persons and testing and compliance requirements are met.
PCBUs have a duty to consult workers about work health and safety and may also have duties to consult, cooperate and coordinate with other duty holders.
WHS Act section 22
Further duties of persons conducting businesses or undertakings that design plant, substances or structures
WHS Act section 23
Duties of persons conducting businesses or undertakings that manufacture plant, substances or structures
WHS Act section 24
Duties of persons conducting businesses or undertakings that import plant, substances or structures
WHS Act section 25
Duties of persons conducting businesses or undertakings that supply plant, substances or structures
WHS Act section 26
Duties of persons conducting businesses or undertakings that install, construct or commission plant or structures
Designers of electrical equipment and installations must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that they are designed to be without risks to health and safety of people at or in the vicinity of a workplace.
Manufacturers of electrical equipment and installation must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that they are manufactured to be without risks to health and safety of people at or in the vicinity of a workplace.
Importers of electrical equipment and installations must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that they are without risks to health and safety of people at or near the vicinity of a workplace.
Suppliers of electrical equipment and installations must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that they are without risks to health and safety of people at or in the vicinity of a workplace.
Installers of electrical equipment and installations must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that they are without risks to health and safety of people at or in the vicinity of a workplace.
WHS Act section 27
Duty of officers
Officers, for example company directors, have a duty to exercise due diligence to ensure the PCBU complies with the WHS Act and WHS Regulations. This includes taking reasonable steps to ensure that the business or undertaking has and uses appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimise electrical risks at the workplace. Further information on who is an officer and their duties is available in the Interpretive Guideline: The health and safety duty of an officer under section 27.
WHS Act section 28
Duties of workers
Workers have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and to not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons. Workers must comply with reasonable instructions, as far as they are reasonably able, and cooperate with reasonable health and safety policies or procedures that have been notified to workers. This means that if electrical equipment or personal protective equipment (PPE) is provided by the PCBU, the worker must use it, so far as they are reasonably able, in accordance with the information, instruction and training provided about its use.
Other persons in the workplace
WHS Act section 29
Duties of other persons at the workplace
Other persons at the workplace, like visitors, must take reasonable care for their own health and safety and must take care not to adversely affect other people’s health and safety. They must comply, so far as they are reasonably able, with reasonable instructions given by the PCBU to allow that person to comply with the WHS Act.
Duty holders may also have other legal obligations under Commonwealth, state or territory electrical safety legislation.
WHS Regulation 34
Duty to identify hazards
WHS Regulation 35
Managing risks to health and safety
WHS Regulation 36
Hierarchy of control measures
WHS Regulation 37
Maintenance of control measures
WHS Regulation 38
Review of control measures
This Code provides guidance on how to manage electrical risks in the workplace using the following systematic process:
Further guidance on the general risk management process is in the Code of Practice: How to manage work health and safety risks.
WHS Act section 47
Duty to consult workers
WHS Act section 48
Nature of consultation
A PCBU must consult, so far as is reasonably practicable, with workers who carry out work for the business or undertaking who are (or are likely to be) directly affected by a health and safety matter.
This duty to consult is based on the recognition that worker input and participation improves decision-making about health and safety matters and assists in reducing work-related injuries and disease.
The broad definition of a ‘worker’ under the WHS Act means a PCBU must consult, so far as is reasonably practicable, with employees, contractors and subcontractors and their employees, on-hire workers, outworkers, apprentices, trainees, work experience students, volunteers and other people who are working for the PCBU and who are, or are likely to be, directly affected by a health and safety matter.
Workers are entitled to take part in consultations and to be represented in consultations by a health and safety representative who has been elected to represent their work group.
WHS Act section 46
Duty to consult with other duty holders
The WHS Act requires a PCBU to consult, cooperate and coordinate activities with all other persons who have a work health or safety duty in relation to the same matter, so far as is reasonably practicable.
There is often more than one PCBU involved in a workplace, who may each have responsibility for the same health and safety matters, either because they are involved in the same activities or share the same workplace.
In these situations, each duty holder should exchange information to find out who is doing what and work together in a cooperative and coordinated way so risks are eliminated or minimised so far as is reasonably practicable.
For example, if you engage an electrical contractor to carry out electrical work at your workplace you should consult with the contractor on how in general the work is to be carried out and in particular how risks to their health and safety and that of others at the workplace are to be managed while the work is carried out. You should also cooperate with the electrical contractor (for example, instructing on and ensuring compliance with ‘no go’ zones) to ensure the electrical safety of everyone at the workplace.
Further guidance on consultation is available in the Code of Practice: Work health and safety consultation, cooperation and coordination.
WHS Act section 19
Primary duty of care
WHS Regulation 39
Provision of information, training and instruction
The WHS Act requires a PCBU to, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide information, training, instruction or supervision that is necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety arising from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking.
The PCBU must ensure that information, training and instruction provided to a worker are suitable and adequate having regard to:
The PCBU must also ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the information, training and instruction are provided in a way that is readily understood by the people to whom it is provided.
Workers must be trained and have the appropriate skills to carry out a particular task safely. Training should be provided to workers by a competent person. Formal or on-the-job training may be required or appropriate, depending on the circumstances.
Examples of training are:
Special needs of workers should be taken into account in deciding the structure, content and delivery of training, including literacy levels, work experience and specific skills required to carry out the work.
WHS Regulation 34
Duty to identify hazards
The first step in the risk management process is to identify all hazards involved with electrical work. This involves finding things and situations that could potentially cause harm to people. Hazards generally arise from the following aspects of work and their interaction:
Hazards may be identified by looking at the workplace and how work is carried out. It is also useful to talk to workers, manufacturers, suppliers and health and safety specialists and review relevant information, records and incident reports.
Hazards associated with electrical equipment or installations may arise from:
Exposure to high electromagnetic fields may also present a potential hazard for workers with some medical conditions, for example, pacemakers. You must inform workers and other persons at the workplace of any potential electromagnetic hazards at the workplace that may affect a medical condition. You must also manage risks to health and safety arising out of electromagnetic hazards, including eliminating the risk so far as is reasonably practicable. If that is not reasonably practicable you must minimise the risk so far as is reasonably practicable.
You can identify potential electrical hazards in a number of different ways including:
A risk assessment involves considering what could happen if someone is exposed to a hazard and the likelihood of it happening. A risk assessment can help you determine:
Hazards have the potential to cause different types and severities of harm, ranging from minor discomfort to a serious injury or death.
Many hazards and their associated risks are well known and have well established and accepted effective control measures. In these situations, the second step in the process identified in section 1.4 of this Code (to formally assess the risk) is not required. If after identifying a hazard you already know the risk and how to control it effectively, you may simply implement the controls.
In some circumstances, a risk assessment will assist to:
It may be possible to re-use a risk assessment in situations where all the hazards, tasks, things or circumstances are the same as for a previous risk assessment, and no worker or other person will be exposed to greater, additional or different risks.
To assess the nature and severity of risks associated with electrical hazards consider:
Factors to consider when assessing the risks associated with electrical work are:
Also consider individual workers’ needs, for example:
Appendix C may be used to assist with identifying hazards and assessing risks in carrying out electrical work.
Further guidance on the risk management process and the hierarchy of control measures is available in the Code of Practice: How to manage work health and safety risks.
WHS Regulation 161
How the work is to be carried out
For work on energised electrical equipment, as a PCBU you must ensure that a risk assessment is conducted by a competent person and recorded prior to work commencing. For more information about energised electrical work see Chapter 6 of this Code.
WHS Regulation 36
Hierarchy of control measures
Once hazards have been identified and the risks assessed, appropriate control measures must be put in place.
The WHS Regulations require duty holders to work through the hierarchy of control measures when managing certain risks; however, it can be applied to any risk. The hierarchy ranks control measures from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest. Further guidance on the risk management process and the hierarchy of control measures is in the Code of Practice: How to manage work health and safety risks.
You must always aim to eliminate the risk. For example, you can eliminate significant electrical risks by designing-in or designing-out certain features to eliminate hazards and working de-energised rather than energised. That is why the WHS Regulations prohibit energised electrical work subject to certain exceptions.
If eliminating the hazards and associated risks is not reasonably practicable, you must minimise the risk by one or more of the following:
If risk remains, it must be minimised by implementing administrative controls, so far as is reasonably practicable. Administrative controls involve the use of safe work practices to control the risk, for example by providing suitable and adequate training; establishing exclusion zones; and use of permits and warning signs.
Any remaining risk must be minimised with suitable PPE, for example protective eyewear, insulated gloves, hard hats, aprons and breathing protection. The PPE should be rated for the work to be done. If working on energised equipment, the PPE must be able to protect the user from the maximum expected energy available at the work site.
Administrative control measures and PPE do not control the hazard at the source. They rely on human behaviour and supervision and used on their own tend to be the least effective in minimising risks. Reliance on administrative controls and PPE should only occur where other measures are not reasonably practicable or as an interim control while the preferred control measure is being implemented.
However, administrative controls such as procurement and personnel policies and procedures are important in relation to electrical risks, as they will help to ensure that electrical work is carried out by a qualified electrician as required by law.
You should check that your chosen control measure does not introduce new hazards. The control measures you apply may change the way work is carried out. In these situations, you must consult your workers and develop safe work procedures, and provide your workers with training, instruction, information and supervision on the changes.
Chapters 3–5 of this Code provide information on control measures when working de‑energised, and Chapters 6–7 on energised electrical work.
WHS Regulation 38
Review of control measures
Control measures must be maintained so they remain fit for purpose, suitable for the nature and duration of work, and installed, set up and used correctly.
The control measures put in place to protect health and safety should be regularly reviewed to make sure they are effective. If the control measure is not working effectively it must be revised to ensure it is effective in controlling the risk.
You must review and as necessary revise a control measure so as to maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a work environment that is without risks to health or safety. For example:
Common review methods include workplace inspection, consultation, testing and analysing records and data.
You can use the same methods as in the initial hazard identification step to check control measures. You must also consult your workers and their health and safety representatives The following questions will help you evaluate how well you are currently managing electrical risks in your workplace:
If problems are found, go back through the risk management steps, review your information and make further decisions about risk control.
As a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) there is a range of things you should do to manage the risks to health and safety associated with electrical risks at the workplace. These include:
WHS Regulation 149
Unsafe electrical equipment
As a PCBU at a workplace, you must ensure that any unsafe electrical equipment at the workplace is disconnected or isolated from its electricity supply and, once disconnected, is not reconnected until it is repaired or tested by a competent person and found to be safe, or is replaced or permanently removed from use.
Electrical equipment is unsafe if there are reasonable grounds for believing it to be unsafe.
You should implement a safe system of work to deal with potentially unsafe electrical equipment at the workplace. This may include:
Unsafe electrical equipment should be labelled indicating it is unsafe and must not be used. This is to prevent inadvertent use before the electrical equipment has been tested, repaired or replaced.
WHS Regulation 150
Inspection and testing of electrical equipment
Inspecting and testing electrical equipment helps determine whether it is electrically safe.
Regular visual inspection can identify obvious damage, wear or other conditions that might make electrical equipment unsafe. Many electrical defects are detectable by visual inspection.
Regular testing can detect electrical faults and deterioration that cannot be detected by visual inspection.
The nature and frequency of inspection and testing will vary depending on the nature of the workplace, its environment and the risks associated with the electrical equipment.
A key source of information on dealing with the inspection and testing of electrical equipment is the manufacturer’s recommendations.
In this section a reference to ‘inspection’ or ‘testing’ excludes repair of electrical equipment.
Electrical items used in higher risk operating environments need to be inspected and tested under regulation 150. See the next section for requirements for electrical items used in higher risk operating environments.
Lower-risk workplaces include those workplaces that are dry, clean, well-organised and free of conditions that are likely to result in damage to electrical equipment, for example an office, retail shop, telecommunications centre or classroom. Electrical equipment commonly used in these types of workplaces includes computers, printers and stationary or fixed electrical equipment. Electrical equipment used in lower-risk workplaces may still need inspection and testing, on a less frequent basis, to ensure that it is safe for continued use.
Guidance on inspecting and testing electrical equipment in lower-risk operating environments is included in AS/NZS 3760:2010: In-service safety inspection and testing of electrical equipment and may also be included in the manufacturer’s recommendations.
AS/NZS 3760:2010 sets out indicative inspection and testing intervals for certain electrical equipment, including RCDs, used in a variety of different operating environments.
In addition to regular testing, electrical equipment should also be tested:
Inspection and testing of electrical equipment may involve, in part:
Note that AS/NZS 3760:2010 specifically excludes medical devices and electrical devices in patient care areas. For more information on these see AS/NZS 3551:2012: Management programs for medical equipment or AS/NZS 3003:2018: Electrical Installations – patient areas.
Brand new electrical equipment that has never been put into use (i.e. other than second-hand equipment) does not have to be tested before first use. It should, however, still be visually inspected to ensure that no damage occurred during transport, delivery, installation or commissioning.
If the electrical equipment is required to be tested regularly for safety, take the necessary steps to ensure that it does not miss required tests.
The date the electrical equipment was placed into service should be recorded, for example on the record of installation. The electrical equipment may also be fitted with a tag stating:
Fitting a ‘new-to-service’ tag is an administrative task that can be carried out by an appropriately trained in-house person.
Alternatively, a different system may be put into place to ensure the electrical equipment is properly inspected and tested as required (for example, the new electrical equipment can be included in the next round of electrical testing carried out at the workplace).
WHS Regulation 150(1)
Inspection and testing of electrical equipment
This section deals with higher risk operating environments other than construction and demolition sites. For inspection and testing requirements in relation to construction and demolition sites see section 3.3 of this Code.
As a PCBU at a workplace, you must ensure that the electrical equipment is regularly inspected and tested by a competent person if the electrical equipment is:
Some operating environments have the potential to seriously affect the safe operation of electrical equipment. Examples of higher risk operating environments include wet or dusty areas, outdoors, workplaces that use corrosive substances, commercial kitchens and manufacturing environments.
A risk assessment can help determine whether electrical equipment is being used in any of these operating environments at a particular workplace.
As a general rule electrical equipment used in higher risk operating environments should be tested at least once every 12 months. More frequent testing may be prudent, for example, in relation to:
You must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that electrical equipment is not used if it is required to be tested under WHS Regulation 150, but testing has not occurred. Possible actions may include storing the equipment in locked areas to prevent use, or using ‘lock out’ labels and tags.
For guidance on appropriate inspection and testing intervals, seek the advice of a competent person, as defined in the next section. Further guidance may be found in AS/NZS 3760:2010: In-service safety inspection and testing of electrical equipment and the manufacturer’s recommendations.
If you are hiring out electrical equipment you should ensure the equipment is inspected at the start of each hire and tested every three months.
The PCBU using the electrical equipment hired out should ensure that, for the period of the hire, the equipment meets all applicable inspection and testing requirements under the WHS Regulations and this Code.
Inspection and testing of electrical equipment must be carried out by a competent person.
For the purposes of the testing described in WHS Regulation 150, a competent person includes a person who is licensed or registered to perform electrical work under a law relating to electrical safety or occupational licensing.
The person carrying out any testing of electrical equipment should also be competent to interpret the test results of any equipment they use.
Depending on Commonwealth, state or territory electrical safety laws a person carrying out testing under AS/NZS 3760:2010: In-service safety inspection and testing of electrical equipment could be required to be:
The training described in the third point above should be designed to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that on completion successful participants:
Some kinds of electrical testing must only be carried out by a licensed electrician or electrical inspector under Commonwealth, state and territory electrical safety laws. For example, there may be the requirement that testing requiring the dismantling of electrical equipment only be carried out by a licensed electrician.
Additional or different competencies may be required for more complex kinds of testing outside the scope of AS/NZS 3760:2010.
If in doubt over who is qualified to inspect or test equipment, advice should be obtained from a person qualified and experienced in electrical equipment testing, for example an electrician, electrical contractor, electrical inspector, specialist testing provider or relevant regulator.
WHS Regulation 150(3)
Inspection and testing of electrical equipment
As a PCBU at a workplace, you must ensure that a record of testing carried out on electrical equipment at the workplace is kept until the electrical equipment is next tested, permanently removed from the workplace, or disposed of. A record of testing must specify the following:
The record may be in the form of a tag attached to the electrical equipment tested.
The record of testing may take the form of a logbook, database, register or a similar kind of record, or a tag. Logbooks and similar records have the advantage of:
If the record of testing is a tag, it should be durable, water resistant, non-metallic, self-adhesive or well secured, incapable of re-use, and have a bright, distinctive surface.
The tag may also be colour coded to identify the month in which the testing was carried out.
A tag may not include all of the required information. In that case, the rest of the required information must be recorded elsewhere and kept for the relevant period of time.
If a tag is not used you should ensure that tested electrical equipment is marked or labelled so that records of testing can clearly identify the relevant equipment.
WHS Regulations Division 5
Electrical equipment and installations and construction work—additional duties
WHS Regulation 163
Duty of person conducting business or undertaking
A PCBU carrying out construction work must comply with AS/NZS 3012:2010: Electrical installations – Construction and demolition sites.
Any term that is defined in both AS/NZS 3012:2010 and the WHS Act or WHS Regulations has the meaning as defined in the WHS Act or WHS Regulations.
If AS/NZS 3012:2010 deals with the same matter as a requirement under Part 4.7 of the WHS Regulations (General Electrical Safety in Workplaces and Energised Electrical Work) then it is sufficient to comply with the standard.
Electric shock often results from people making contact with unprotected energised parts of electrical equipment and earth. Contact with energised parts may occur by touching:
Contact with earth occurs through normal body contact with the ground or earthed metal parts.
Serious injuries and fatalities may be prevented by the use of properly installed and maintained residual current devices (RCDs), commonly referred to as ‘safety switches’. An RCD is an electrical safety device designed to immediately switch off the supply of electricity when electricity ‘leaking’ to earth is detected at harmful levels. RCDs offer high levels of personal protection from electric shock.
RCDs work by continuously comparing the current flow in both the active (supply) and neutral (return) conductors of an electrical circuit. If the current flow becomes sufficiently unbalanced, some of the current in the active conductor is not returning through the neutral conductor and is leaking to earth. RCDs are designed to quickly disconnect the electricity supply when they sense harmful leakage, typically when it reaches 30 milliamps or a lesser amount. This ensures an electrical leak is detected and the electricity supply is disconnected before it can cause serious injury or damage.
While RCDs significantly reduce the risk of electric shock they do not provide protection in all circumstances. For example, an RCD will not trigger the switching off of electricity supply if a person contacts both active and neutral conductors while handling faulty plugs or electrical equipment and electricity flows through the person’s body, unless there is also a current flow to earth.
WHS Regulation 164
Use of socket outlets in hostile operating environment
In certain higher risk or hostile operating environments, as outlined below, you must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that any electrical risk associated with the supply of electricity to ‘plug in’ electrical equipment (such as using socket outlets) is minimised by the use of an appropriate RCD.
Subject to the exceptions outlined below, the requirement to use an appropriate RCD applies when electrical equipment is:
The exceptions to this requirement are if the supply of electricity to the electrical equipment:
In the situations outlined above and subject to the exceptions listed, you must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that any electrical risk associated with the supply of electricity to the electrical equipment through a socket outlet is minimised by the use of an appropriate RCD.
Where an RCD is required, it must have a tripping current that does not exceed 30 milliamps if electricity is supplied to the equipment through a socket outlet not exceeding 20 amps.
The WHS Regulations do not prescribe whether RCDs must be non-portable or portable. The most ‘appropriate’ RCD will depend on the workplace environment.
You may need to seek technical advice from a competent person about the kinds of RCDs that are appropriate for your workplace.
Common examples of electrical equipment requiring an RCD include:
Non-portable (‘fixed’) RCDs are RCDs that are installed at either the switchboard (see Figure 1) or a fixed socket outlet (see Figure 2).
Non-portable RCDs installed at the main switchboard protect the wiring connected to the RCD and electrical equipment plugged into the protected circuit.
Non-portable RCDs installed at a fixed socket outlet provide protection to electrical equipment plugged into the outlet.
Figure 1: Switchboard RCD unit
Figure 2: Fixed socket outlet RCD unit
Portable RCDs (Figures 3 and 4) are generally plugged into a socket outlet and, depending on design, may protect one or more items of electrical equipment.
Figure 3: Portable RCD fitted directly to power cable
Figure 4: Portable RCD protected power board
To assist with proper selection, further information about the advantages and disadvantages of different kinds of non-portable and portable RCDs is included in Appendix B—Advantages and disadvantages of non-portable and portable RCDs.
RCDs are classified in AS/NZS 3190:2016: Approval and test specification – Residual current devices (current-operated earth-leakage devices).
The two relevant types of RCD are described in Table 1 below.
Table 1 Classes of RCDs—type, description and general guidance for use
General Guidance – Use
Type I RCDs have a residual current rating not exceeding 10 milliamps and a tripping time within 30 milliseconds.
Type I RCDs are the most sensitive and are required for electrical equipment that is directly connected to people, for example patients in hospitals or dental practices.
Type II RCDs have a residual current rating greater than 10 milliamps but not exceeding 30 milliamps and a tripping time within 300 milliseconds.
Type II RCDs are most suitable for personal protection against injury including electric shock.
For construction and demolition sites you must comply with AS/NZS 3012:2010: Electrical installations – Construction and demolition sites.
Additional requirements for the installation of non-portable RCDs may also apply under local building and electrical safety laws as set out in AS/NZS 3000:2007: Electrical installations (known as the Australian/New Zealand Wiring Rules).
WHS Regulation 165
Testing of residual current devices
A person with management or control of a workplace must take all reasonable steps to ensure that RCDs used at the workplace are tested regularly by a competent person to ensure the devices are working effectively. This requirement covers RCDs used in all operating environments including non-portable (‘fixed’) RCDs.
A record of testing (other than daily testing) must be kept until the device is next tested or disposed of.
If an RCD is tested and found to be faulty it must be taken out of service and replaced as soon as possible.
Requirements for inspecting and testing electrical equipment used in certain higher risk workplaces which could, for example, include portable RCDs, are explained in section 3.2 of this Code.
AS/NZS 3012:2010/Amdt 1:2015: Electrical installations – Construction and demolition sites applies in relation to construction and demolition sites.
For guidance on approval and test specifications, see AS/NZS 3190:2016: Approval and test specification – Residual current devices (current-operated earth-leakage devices).
A new portable RCD unit should be tested by pressing the ‘trip test’ button to ensure the RCD is effective.
Electrical work, whether energised or de-energised, must only be carried out by appropriately licensed or registered electrical workers.
For more information about the applicable electrical licensing or registration laws, contact the local regulator in the relevant jurisdiction.
WHS Regulations Part 4.7 Division 4
Electrical work on energised electrical equipment
WHS Regulation 152
Application of Division 4
WHS Regulation 153
Persons conducting a business or undertaking to which this Division applies
WHS Regulation 154
Electrical work on energised electrical equipment—prohibited
WHS Regulation 155
Duty to determine whether equipment is energised
WHS Regulation 156
De-energised equipment must not be inadvertently re-energised
As a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), you must ensure that electrical work is not carried out on electrical equipment while the equipment is energised, subject to the prescribed exceptions discussed in section 6.1 of this Code.
These provisions do not apply to work carried out by or on behalf of electricity supply authorities on the electrical equipment, including electric line-associated equipment, controlled or operated by the authority to generate, transform, transmit or supply electricity. This exemption does not extend to the electricity generation sector.
You must ensure that, before electrical work is carried out on electrical equipment, the equipment is tested by a competent person to determine whether or not it is energised.
You must ensure that:
You must ensure that electrical equipment that has been de-energised to allow for electrical work to be carried out cannot be inadvertently re-energised.
In short, apply the principle ‘TEST FOR ‘DEAD’ BEFORE YOU TOUCH’ at all times (i.e. test the tester on a known live source, test the equipment to be worked on, and then confirm the tester is still functional by retesting the tester on a known live source).
Even if the electricity supply is believed to have been isolated, it must be assumed that all conductors and electrical components are energised until they have been proven to have been de-energised.
Testing for ‘dead’ must be undertaken each time before electrical work is carried out. Testing is undertaken prior to touching, taking into account all relevant factors including the nature of the conductor, nature of the isolation, nature of work, if there has been a change or if the area has been left idle (unattended) for a period.
The testing method, including the tester used, must be safe and effective. The electrical worker carrying out the testing must understand testing procedures and be competent in the use of the tester.
Panel voltmeters should not be used as the only method of determining whether an electrical part is de-energised.
If voltage testers are used they should be tested for correct operation immediately before use and again after use to confirm that the instrument is still working. This check should be considered to be part of the ‘TEST FOR ‘DEAD’ BEFORE YOU TOUCH’ safe work principle.
If there are any exposed conductors in the immediate work area they should be separated by design or segregated and protected with insulated barricades, insulated shrouding or insulated material to prevent against inadvertent or direct contact.
For more information about testing instruments see section 8.4 of this Code.
Where work is to be carried out on a cable, the cable should be de-energised and the isolation point secured by tagging and locking out.
Cables must be treated as energised and the procedures for working on energised electrical equipment must be followed, including testing by a competent person to determine whether or not they are energised (see section 4.1 above).
If the cable’s connections are exposed, the connections and attached live parts should be proved to be de-energised and identified before work starts.
Cutting cables presents particular risks. Both ends of the cable should be checked for isolation prior to cutting. Schematic diagrams or ‘as built’ diagrams should be checked carefully to establish secondary or metering circuits in multi-cored cables prior to cutting.
Additional precautions should be taken to ensure insulated or covered cables are de‑energised, whether the cables are low voltage, high voltage or control cables. For example, the action of cutting a multi-core control cable is likely to create a risk if secondary current from a current transformer is present. This risk may not be initially apparent; that is, the cable cutters may not be damaged when the cable is cut. A high voltage may develop across the open-circuited secondary winding causing an electric shock, arcing or a fault at a later stage. Depending on the situation, alternative precautions may include:
To ensure electrical equipment or circuits remain de-energised while working, the electrical equipment or circuits should be effectively isolated from all relevant sources of electricity supply. This may be done using opening switches, removing fuses or links, opening circuit breakers or removing circuit connections.
The standard steps for isolation are:
The effectiveness of isolation procedures relies on:
Safe isolation procedures, including the use of locks and tags as discussed below, should be developed in consultation with relevant workers. If the workers are represented by a health and safety representative, the consultation must involve that representative.
WHS Regulation 155
Duty to determine whether equipment is energised
WHS Regulation 156
De-energised equipment must not be inadvertently re-energised
As a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), you must ensure that
You must also ensure that electrical equipment that has been de-energised to allow electrical work to be carried out on it is not inadvertently re-energised while the work is being carried out.
For work on electrical equipment or circuits, ensure:
It is fundamental that the point of isolation should be under the control of the person who is carrying out the work on the isolated conductors.
Tagging systems should also be used at the point(s) of isolation, where possible, to provide general information.
The isolation should be secured by locking off and tagging the electrical equipment as outlined below.
You must ensure instruction, information, training and supervision are provided, so far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure that electrical equipment that has been de-energised to allow electrical work to be carried out is not inadvertently re-energised. This includes appropriate instruction, information and training on isolation procedures.
Isolation points should be fitted with control mechanisms that prevent the electrical equipment from being inadvertently re-energised. The control mechanism should require a deliberate action to engage or disengage the device. It should be able to withstand conditions that could lead to the isolation failing, for example vibration. This may include switches with a built-in lock, and lock-outs for switches, circuit breakers, fuses and safety lock-out jaws (sometimes called ‘hasps’).
All circuit breakers, switches and combined fuse switch units should be locked off to secure the isolation where possible. See Figures 5 and 6 below for examples of locking-off methods incorporating danger tags.
Alternative controls may include an additional component, for example a clip, screw, bolt or pin that can be inserted to prevent a switch from being operated. These types of controls should be used in conjunction with additional control measures, such as danger tags and permit systems.
If more than one person is working on the same de-energised electrical installation, individuals should ensure their own personal lock is applied to the isolation point, otherwise the principles of tagging apply (see below).
No-one should operate an isolator or knowingly use equipment where the isolator has a control mechanism attached.
In situations where isolation points are accessible by other persons at the workplace, you should ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the isolation method or system is not able to be inadvertently or easily compromised.
Figure 5 Locking off methods incorporating danger tags—danger tagged locking-off hasp
Figure 6 Locking off methods incorporating danger tags—danger tagged circuit breaker locking-off devices
Isolation involves using suitable warning or safety signs as well as locks or other controls to secure the isolation.
Where possible, a tag should be attached to normal locks (as shown in Figure 5) at all points of isolation used to de-energise electrical equipment from its electricity supply.
A tag does not, by itself, perform the isolation function.
Danger tags are not required when using dedicated personal isolation locks.
Danger tags (see Figure 7) are used for the duration of the electrical work to warn persons at the workplace that:
The danger tag should:
If the work is incomplete, for example at a change of shift, the last person removes their danger tag or lock and replaces it with a warning tag, for example out-of-service or caution tag.
When work is resumed, the person in charge of the work removes the warning (out-of-service or caution) tag and each person then applies their danger tag and/or lock.
When work is finally completed, each person removes their danger tag and/or lock.
Where a formal permit system is used, all reasonable steps should be taken to ensure that the designated sign-on and tagging procedures are followed.
Out-of-service or caution tags (see Figure 8) are used to identify electrical equipment that is not safe to use or fit for purpose. The out-of-service or caution tag should:
Figure 7: Example of a danger tag
Figure 8: Example of an out-of-service tag
Testing of electrical equipment must be carried out to confirm:
For guidance on bonding conductors if electrical equipment is isolated at a remote location or there is a risk of induced voltage being present, see AS/NZS 4836:2011: Safe working on or near low-voltage electrical installations and equipment.
It may be necessary to change an isolation point to allow for testing or fault finding on energised parts. For example, testing may be required before returning electrical equipment to service and commissioning new electrical equipment.
Any testing or fault finding on energised parts must be carried out in accordance with requirements for energised electrical work, which are discussed in section 6 of this Code.
If electricity supply is restored to part of the circuit then safe procedures for restoring electricity supply must be followed, as described in the next section.
You must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that restoring electricity supply following isolation does not pose risks to health and safety at the workplace. For example:
When electricity is restored, tests should be carried out to confirm that polarity is correct, actives are switched and, where applicable, phase sequences are correct before electrical equipment is used. For further information refer to AS/NZS 3017:2007: Electrical installations – Verification guidelines.
If work is left unfinished, you must ensure that the workplace is left in a safe state, so far as is reasonably practicable. For example:
WHS Regulation 152
Application of Division 4
WHS Regulation 155
Duty to determine whether equipment is energised
WHS Regulation 157
Electrical work on energised electrical equipment—when permitted
Energised electrical work is electrical work carried out in circumstances where the part of electrical equipment being worked on is connected to electricity or ‘energised’.
Energised electrical work is generally prohibited unless one or more of the exceptions under the WHS Regulations (as outlined below) applies and the work is carried out in accordance with the WHS Regulations.
As a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), you must ensure that electrical work is not carried out on energised electrical equipment unless:
These requirements in relation to energised electrical work do not apply to work carried out by or on behalf of electricity supply authorities on the electrical equipment, including electric line-associated equipment, controlled or operated by the authority to transform, transmit or supply electricity. These authorities may be covered by separate electrical safety requirements.
Electrical work must not be carried out on electrical equipment while energised for the reason of it being merely more convenient for the electrical equipment to stay energised while the work is being carried out.
Energised electrical work must not be carried out unless the safety risk to those persons directly affected by a supply interruption is higher than the risk to the licensed or registered electrical workers proposed to carry out the energised electrical work. Only in extremely rare circumstances would it be possible to justify that it is not practicable to have a short break in supply. Most electrical installations suffer no harm through unplanned interruptions of this kind to the network supply. In some cases a short break may allow for the insertion (and removal) of insulated barriers.
A PCBU requiring electrical work to be carried out may provide to the person they are seeking to do the work operational reasons appearing to justify energised electrical work. Requiring electrical work to be carried out while the equipment is energised when it could be avoided places an onerous responsibility on the business or undertaking carrying out the work to minimise the risks. If an incident occurs as a result of carrying out energised electrical work, the business or undertaking carrying out the work is at risk of being found not to have provided a safe workplace.
WHS Regulation 158
You must ensure the following before electrical work on energised electrical equipment is started:
The third dot point does not apply to work on electrical equipment if:
See section 2.2 of this Code for information on assessing the risks.
In addition to the considerations listed in section 2.2, the assessment should be designed to check compliance with the legislative requirements described above from WHS Regulation 158.
For energised electrical work, any significant findings should be recorded, reviewed from time to time and revised if necessary. See section 2.4 of this Code for a description of triggers for review.
When electrical work is being carried out at a workplace all PCBUs at the workplace—not just those carrying out the electrical work—have a duty to manage electrical risks.
Electrical work will often be carried out at a place that is not under the management or control of the PCBU carrying out the electrical work. For example, the place where work is carried out may be under the management or control of:
These persons will also have duties in relation to the health and safety of the electrical worker(s) and other persons at the place where the electrical work is being carried out.
If duty holders have a duty in relation to the same matter under the WHS Act, all duty holders must, so far as is reasonably practicable, consult, cooperate and coordinate activities with each other in relation to this matter.
In addition to the general duty to consult, the PCBU carrying out the electrical work must ensure the electrical work is only authorised (among other things) after consulting with the person with management or control of the workplace.
Consultation should ensure that all relevant persons are aware of any scheduled electrical work to be carried out and also of any relevant risks to health and safety arising from that work.
Arrangements should also be put in place to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that all persons at the workplace receive suitable and adequate information and instruction, for example about the need to comply with warning or safety signs and to stay out of any ‘no go’ zones.
Occupiers of residential premises must take reasonable care that their acts or omissions do not adversely affect the health or safety of other persons while work is being performed at the premises. This includes electrical workers at their premises.
WHS Regulation 159
Unauthorised access to equipment being worked on
WHS Regulation 160
Contact with equipment being worked on
WHS Regulation 161
How the work is to be carried out
You must ensure that electrical work on energised electrical equipment is carried out:
A safety observer is not required if the work consists only of testing and the risk assessment shows there is no serious risk associated with the proposed work.
You must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the person who carries out the electrical work uses the tools, testing equipment and PPE properly.
Many of these requirements and recommendations require consultation, cooperation and coordination between multiple duty holders at the workplace.
WHS Regulation 161
How the work is to be carried out
WHS Regulation 302
Review of safe work method statement
WHS Regulation 303
Safe work method statement must be kept
You must ensure that electrical work on energised electrical equipment is carried out in accordance with a safe work method statement (SWMS).
SWMS document a process for identifying and controlling health and safety hazards and risks. They may also incorporate a risk assessment.
SWMS are required in relation to prescribed ‘high risk construction work’ which includes construction work carried out on or near energised electrical installations or services.
SWMS must be developed in consultation with relevant workers. If the workers are represented by a health and safety representative, the consultation must involve that representative.
SWMS prepared for energised electrical work should describe consultation arrangements with the person with management or control of the workplace, including any authorisation procedures and position descriptions.
SWMS must be written in a way that is readily understandable by the workers who are to use them.
A copy must be readily accessible to any worker who is to carry out the electrical work covered by the statement.
You must ensure that SWMS are reviewed and, as necessary, revised if relevant control measures are revised under the WHS Regulations. They must, for example, be revised if a decision is made to change relevant safe work procedures at the workplace.
Appendix D—Preventative actions checklist may help you to identify hazards associated with electrical work and assist you to develop safe work methods.
If the electrical work falls within the description of high risk construction work then the construction regulations in the WHS Regulations will apply. For more information about safe work method statements for high risk construction work see the Code of Practice: Construction work.
WHS Regulation 162
As a PCBU carrying out electrical work you must keep:
If a ‘notifiable incident’ under Part 3 of the WHS Act occurs in connection with the work to which the assessment or statement relates you must keep the assessment or statement (as the case requires) for at least two years after the incident occurs.
You must ensure that, for the period for which the assessment or statement must be kept under the WHS Regulations, a copy is readily accessible to any worker you engage to carry out electrical work to which the assessment or statement relates, and a copy is available for inspection.
WHS Regulation 161
How the work is to be carried out
A competent safety observer must be present when work is carried out on energised electrical equipment, unless the work consists only of testing and a risk assessment shows that there is no serious risk associated with the proposed work.
The role of the safety observer should be clearly communicated and understood. The safety observer must:
The safety observer should:
Persons can be exposed to electrical risks, including risks of electric shock, arcing and explosion, without directly contacting exposed energised parts of electrical equipment. Other conductive materials can provide current paths for the electric shock, fault current or both.
All materials should be regarded as conductive unless proved otherwise. Gases and liquids should be regarded as conductive. Particular care should be taken when exposed energised parts are near earthed situations.
The electric shock path to earth can be via conductive materials such as concrete, timber with a high moisture content, or water. For example, ladders that are damp or dirty may become conductive and create a potential hazard.
When working near exposed energised parts or working energised, use tools and equipment that are non-conductive or insulated. This applies, for example, to:
Metallic personal items including watches and watchbands should not be worn by workers carrying out work near exposed energised parts. Metal objects worn on or close to the body increase the risk of electric shock. Electrical burns can be more serious because these objects retain heat and provide contact points for current to flow.
Other examples of metallic personal items include jewellery, body piercings and metal spectacle frames.
All workers should be competent in the safe use of their tools and equipment, including PPE. For more information about maintaining and inspecting tools and equipment, including testing and fault-finding instruments, see section 8 of this Code.
You must ensure that, while electrical work is being carried out on energised electrical equipment, all persons are prevented from inadvertently making contact with an exposed energised component of the equipment. Electrical work should be carried out from a position that minimises the risk of inadvertent contact with exposed energised parts and also the risk of an electric shock path being created. For example, safe work method statements should require, so far as is reasonably practicable, that electrical workers position themselves so that:
Barriers and signs may be designed, erected or installed to:
Different kinds of safety barriers may be required for different purposes. For example:
A risk assessment should be carried out by a competent person to advise on whether a barrier is appropriate to address the relevant risks, including whether it is of appropriate design and correct materials.
You must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the barrier is erected safely. This may require switching off or isolating the electricity supply while the barrier is installed.
A barrier may be temporary or permanent and, if applicable, should clearly designate the safe work area by defining the approach path to the relevant piece of equipment.
WHS Regulation 43
Duty to prepare, maintain and implement emergency plan
You must ensure that an emergency plan for the workplace is prepared, maintained so that it remains effective, and implemented in the event of an emergency.
For the purpose of preparing and maintaining the plan, you must consider all relevant matters, including:
Quick action after an electrical incident that has caused injury can save a life or significantly reduce the severity of the injury. Any person who is involved in an electrical incident involving an electric shock should receive medical attention.
Even if an electrical incident does not appear to have caused injury at the time, there may be delayed effects.
A well prepared emergency response will assist in managing the severity of the injury where an incident has occurred, while also taking into account the health and safety of those required to respond to the incident. For example, in an exposed energised high voltage situation, the plan may include isolating the electricity supply and proving it is de-energised before carrying out a rescue.
Special consideration must also be given in relation to other higher risk workplaces including confined spaces, working at heights, use of elevating work platforms, workplaces with hazardous atmospheres which present a risk to health or safety from fire or explosion, and trenches, shafts and tunnels.
You must ensure that the regulator is notified immediately after you become aware of any incident arising out of the business or undertaking that has exposed a worker or any other person to a serious risk from an immediate or imminent exposure to electric shock. This may also be separately notifiable to an electrical safety regulator.
Fault finding should first be attempted in a de-energised environment using de-energised testing methods. If unsuccessful, energised testing methods may be used subject to meeting the requirements of the WHS Regulations for working energised.
Before starting any testing or fault finding in an energised environment:
When testing or fault finding in an energised environment:
When testing or fault finding is completed, restore circuits and equipment to a safe condition. For example, disconnected conductors should be reconnected and left in a safe state with covers replaced and accessories and equipment properly secured.
Coordination procedures, such as procedures for switching circuits or equipment on and off during the fault-finding or testing process, should be implemented and maintained at all times.
See AS/NZS 3000:2018: Electrical installations (known as the Australian/New Zealand Wiring Rules) for guidance on electrical testing and fault finding in hazardous atmospheres that present a risk to health and safety from fire or explosion.
Electrical work on any installation, equipment, machinery, plant or appliance may pose a risk of direct or indirect contact with nearby exposed energised electrical parts (for example, installing or testing circuits on a switchboard adjacent to exposed live electrical parts).
In some circumstances the risks associated with undertaking electrical work near exposed live parts can be equivalent to those associated with live electrical work. Risks to be considered, but not limited to, are those arising from:
The Code of Practice: How to manage work health and safety risks provides further assistance in identifying and assessing risks, and developing control measures for developing safe work practices.
If there is a safety risk associated with working near energised electrical parts a written risk assessment should be made to help determine the risk level and decide on appropriate control measures.
The following factors may be taken into account in assessing risks:
You must work through the hierarchy of controls to choose the control that most effectively eliminates or minimises the risk of working near energised electrical parts, so far as is reasonably practicable. See section 2.3 for information on the hierarchy of control measures.
Some examples of control measures for working near energised electrical parts are below.
Substitution, isolation and engineering controls
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
In implementing control measures, you may develop a SWMS that:
A SWMS must be prepared for construction work that is carried out on or near energised electrical installations or services and if the electrical work falls within the description of ‘high risk construction work’ in the WHS Regulations. Further information about these requirements is available in the Code of Practice: Construction work.
See section 2.4 of this Code.
Tools, instruments and equipment that are poorly maintained, inappropriately used or not fit for purpose can cause injuries. Examples of these include:
Unrestrained tools may fall into energised switchboards and compromise the integrity and safety of the equipment. The use of lanyards around wrists, tool holders, and restraints such as tool pouches and baskets may be used to address these risks.
The tools, instruments and equipment used by electrical workers often have special design characteristics, for example many are insulated. All insulated tools and equipment should be suitable for the work and be maintained in good working order, including regular maintenance, inspection and testing. Inadequate maintenance may lead to serious electrical risks, for example an insulating medium might conceal a mechanical defect that could cause an open circuit in a testing device.
Where any doubt exists about the adequacy of the insulation of tools and equipment they should not be used.
Maintenance and inspection should be carried out according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Consider eliminating the use of metallic, wire reinforced or otherwise conductive ladders. These types of ladders should be avoided for any kind of electrical work and should not be used in close proximity to equipment where an electrical hazard may result from their use.
Metallic or wire reinforced ladders and scaffolds are conductive and may create an electric shock path, for example:
Also consider the electrical risks posed when using ladders, scaffolds and similar equipment, including that:
Other effective control measures may include:
Insulating covers and mats used for electrical safety purposes should comply with AS/NZS 2978:1995: Insulating mats for electrical purposes.
Insulated barriers should be of suitable material to effectively separate electrical workers from adjacent energised equipment.
Insulated covers and mats should be visually inspected for possible defects before and after each use.
WHS Regulation 161
How the work is to be carried out
As a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), you must ensure that the person carrying out energised electrical work has tools, testing equipment and PPE that are suitable for work, that have been properly tested and that are maintained in good working order.
Workers carrying out electrical testing must be appropriately trained and competent in test procedures and in the use of testing instruments and equipment. This includes:
Test instruments that are to be used or connected to electrical equipment should meet the following conditions:
AS 61010.1–2003: Safety requirements for electrical equipment for measurement, control and laboratory use – General requirements provides a classification for instruments on the basis of their immunity to over-voltage, which may be experienced in different parts of electrical equipment. Instruments should be rated as Category III or IV to enable their use on all parts of the equipment.
Test probes and other equipment should be designed and selected so that they cannot inadvertently short circuit between live conductors or live conductors and earth. The terminals of test equipment should be shrouded and all other test sockets on measuring instruments should be designed to prevent inadvertent contact with any live test socket or conductor when equipment is in use. Where appropriate, test leads and testing devices need to be provided with suitable fuse protection. Testing equipment, where used in hazardous flammable areas, should be designed and clearly marked as being suitable for use in these conditions.
Testing equipment used for detecting an energised source should be trialled first to prove that it is functioning correctly immediately before and after the test has taken place. The standard test regime is to test a known source of energy, test the de-energised circuit for zero volts, and then test the known source again. A faulty indicator will always read zero so must be proved before and after the test.
To confirm a positive indication and to establish the circuit voltage, the use of an alternative test instrument that incorporates a visual display should be used before starting electrical work on the equipment.
Testers for detecting an electric field surrounding an energised conductor may not be suitable for testing cables that are surrounded by a metallic screen, enclosed in a metallic pipe or duct, carrying direct current, and some other circumstances.
Proximity voltage testers are not reliable in proving that equipment is de-energised and should only be treated as an indicator. To confirm that the instrument is working correctly, a proximity voltage tester should be tested for correct operation immediately before use and again immediately after use, particularly if the test result indicates zero voltage.
WHS Regulation 44
Provision to workers and use of personal protective equipment
You must ensure that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for electrical work, including testing and fault finding, is selected to minimise risks to health and safety; maintained, repaired or replaced so that it continues to do so; and used or worn by the worker, so far as is reasonably practicable. The PPE must be able to withstand the energy at the point of work when working energised.
A PCBU who directs the carrying out of work must provide the workers with information, training and instruction on the proper use and wearing of the PPE.
Depending on the type of work and the risks involved, the following PPE should be considered.
Use of a suitably arc rated full face shield may be appropriate when working where there is potential for high current and arcing.
Metal spectacle frames should not be worn.
Use gloves insulated to the highest potential voltage expected for the work being undertaken. Leather work gloves may be considered for de-energised electrical work.
Use non-synthetic, flame resistant clothing of non-fusible material. Clothing made from conductive material or containing metal threads should not be worn.
Use non-conductive footwear, for example steel toe cap boots or shoes manufactured to a suitable standard.
Safety belts and harnesses should be checked and inspected each time before use with particular attention being paid to buckles, rings, hooks, clips and webbing.
WHS Regulation 42
Duty to provide first aid
All PCBUs must ensure the provision of first aid for the workplace, and that each worker at the workplace has access to the facilities and equipment for the administration of first aid.
You must ensure that an adequate number of workers are trained to administer first aid at the workplace or workers have access to an adequate number of other persons who have been trained to administer first aid.
Special requirements for safety observers apply in relation to certain energised electrical work. See section 6.3 of this Code.
For further guidance on how to provide first aid refer to the Code of Practice: First aid in the workplace.
Requirements for electrical work on high voltage equipment after switching, isolation, short circuiting and earthing are specialised requirements. Only competent electrical workers who have received appropriate training in high voltage electrical work are permitted to work on high voltage electrical equipment.
For more information you should seek further advice about working on or near high voltage electrical installations from a specialist electrical contractor or the local electricity supply authority.
The electrical risks and consequences of an electrical incident involving high voltage may be significantly higher than with low voltage. Under fault conditions, the higher voltages (potentials) and fault current levels release massive quantities of energy.
A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) that has a high voltage electrical installation should prepare an installation safety management plan for their workplace. The plan should address the risks associated with the operation and maintenance of the high voltage installation. This may include:
Any person who owes a work health and safety duty under the WHS Act including a person conducting a business or undertaking, a designer, manufacturer, importer, supplier, installer of products or plant used at work (upstream duty holder), officer or a worker.
Separated from all sources of supply but not necessarily isolated, earthed, discharged or out of commission.
Any apparatus, appliance, cable, conductor, fitting, insulator, material, meter or wire that:
Electrical equipment does not include any apparatus, appliance, cable, conductor, fitting, insulator, material, meter or wire that is part of a motor car or motorcycle if:
A group of items of electrical equipment that:
Connected to a source of electrical supply or subject to hazardous induced or capacitive voltages.
A situation or thing that has the potential to harm a person. Hazards at work may include: noisy machinery, a moving forklift, chemicals, electricity, working at heights, a repetitive job, bullying and violence at the workplace.
Health and safety representative
A worker who has been elected by their work group under the WHS Act to represent them on health and safety matters.
Disconnected from all possible sources of electricity supply and thereby rendered incapable of being made energised without premeditated and deliberate action.
‘May’ indicates an optional course of action.
‘Must’ indicates a legal requirement exists that must be complied with.
An officer under the WHS Act includes:
A partner in a partnership or an elected member of a local authority is not an officer while acting in that capacity.
Person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU)
A PCBU is an umbrella concept which intends to capture all types of working arrangements or relationships. A PCBU includes a:
Individuals who are in a partnership that is conducting a business will individually and collectively be a PCBU.
A volunteer association (defined under the WHS Act, see below) or elected members of a local authority will not be a PCBU.
Residual current device (RCD)
A device intended to isolate supply to protected circuits, socket outlets or electrical equipment in the event of a current flow to earth that exceeds a predetermined value. The RCD may be fixed or portable.
The possibility harm (death, injury or illness) might occur when exposed to a hazard.
‘Should’ indicates a recommended course of action.
A device for detachably connecting electrically operated equipment to a power supply. The term ‘socket outlet’ includes a cord-extension socket attached to a flexible cord that is permanently connected to installation wiring.
A group of volunteers working together for one or more community purposes where none of the volunteers, whether alone or jointly with any other volunteers, employs any person to carry out work for the volunteer association.
A group of workers established to facilitate the representation of workers by one or more health and safety representatives. A work group may be all workers at a workplace but it may also be appropriate to split a workplace into multiple work groups where workers share similar work conditions or are exposed to similar risks and hazards. For example, all workers on night shift.
Any person who carries out work for a person conducting a business or undertaking, including work as an employee, contractor or subcontractor (or their employee), self-employed person, outworker, apprentice or trainee, work experience student, employee of a labour hire company placed with a 'host employer' or a volunteer.
Any place where work is carried out for a business or undertaking and includes any place where a worker goes, or is likely to be, while at work. This may include offices, factories, shops, construction sites, vehicles, ships, aircraft or other mobile structures on land or water.
Non-portable (or ‘fixed’) RCDs are installed at either the switchboard or a fixed socket outlet.
Non-portable RCDs will protect all the wiring and electrical equipment plugged into the relevant circuit(s).
These non-portable RCDs are installed at selected locations and provide protection to electrical equipment plugged into the outlet.
Socket outlets protected by non-portable RCDs should be labelled, for example, by stating ‘RCD Protected’ or similar. This will indicate to the person using the socket outlet that a non-portable RCD is fitted.
In deciding between options for non-portable RCDs, you should consider the size of the building or site, its use, and any plans to refurbish, refit or rewire the building.
It may be safer and more cost-effective to ensure all circuits are protected by one or more RCDs rather than selectively installing individual RCDs at some socket outlets to accommodate your current workplace needs, which may change.
Commonwealth, state or territory building and electrical safety laws may apply when you install new circuits or modify pre-existing circuits – for example protecting those circuits with an RCD consistent with AS/NZS 3000:2007: Electrical installations (known as the Australian/New Zealand Wiring Rules), which is subject to some exemptions.
These RCDs protect the electrical equipment that is plugged into them.
In some circumstances the most appropriate RCDs may be portable RCDs, particularly to protect mobile workers who do not have fixed places of work and whose person conducting the business or undertaking (PCBU), may have little control over electrical installations where they work.
Workers using hand-held or portable electrical equipment should be advised as to whether the outlets they use are adequately protected by RCDs. If in doubt you should ensure that portable RCDs are provided to these workers and you should take all reasonable steps to ensure they are used.
The use of a portable RCD in a circuit already protected by a non-portable RCD has no detrimental effect on the operation of either RCD.
Portable plug-type RCDs can be plugged into a socket outlet to protect a single piece of equipment.
They can be incorporated into a power cable or can be the RCD unit alone, without a cord.
Portable stand-alone units are RCDs incorporated into a power board. They provide multiple protected socket outlets and can provide RCD protection to multiple items of electrical equipment from one power board.
Isolation and access
Working near sources of arcing, explosion or fires
Arcs, explosions and electrical faults can cause burns. Workers should be protected from the effects of burns. Examples of situations where arcs, explosions and electrical faults can cause burns include:
Working in unsafe atmospheres
After faults and fires, often in emergencies, electrical workers may be exposed to unsafe atmospheres. Toxic gases and lack of oxygen can cause illness and death. General workplace health and safety control measures should be used in these situations.
The method of extinguishing fires should be addressed. Typically, carbon dioxide or powder type devices are used against electrical fires. Extinguishers including water, foam and wet chemical should not be used as they significantly increase the risk of electric shock.
Modifying or repairing existing low-voltage electrical installations
Testing and fault finding low-voltage equipment and installations
Risks arise as it is difficult to find faults or malfunctions in electrical equipment when the circuits are not energised or when the equipment is not operating, especially if feedback circuits or sensors are involved. Risks can include:
High fault currents —working, testing or fault finding energised
When working, testing or fault finding on energised electrical equipment,
Arcs can have the energy to cause an explosion and/or melt metallic switchboard cubicles and equipment. Arcs may cause severe burns to the skin and flash burns to the face and eyes. Inhaled hot gases and molten particles can cause serious internal burns to the throat and lungs. Injury can also occur through the impact from flying debris and dislodged components. Circuit protection devices may not operate in such circumstances.
Testing, fault finding or working on or near low voltage equipment
This checklist will help you to identify hazards associated with electrical work and to develop safe work methods.
If you answer ‘NO’ to any question you are not following best practice and may be in breach of your WHS duties.
Part 1: Initial assessment
Can the work be undertaken while the electrical equipment is de-energised?
If Yes, go to Part 2. If No, is it:
If your answer to any of these is ‘yes’ go to Part 3 after considering whether part of the installation or equipment may be de-energised while the work is carried out.
If you cannot answer ‘yes’ to any of these go to Part 2—you must work de-energised.
Part 2: Work de-energised
Do you have approved test instruments suitable for the task?
Have you checked that the test instruments are functioning correctly?
Have you isolated the supply, for example by switching off?
Have you conclusively tested that the equipment is de-energised?
When a safe work method statement is required for the work, you must ensure the work is carried out in accordance with the safe work method statement.
Go to Part 4.
Part 3: Work on or near energised equipment
Has a risk assessment been conducted by a competent person which identifies all electrical hazards and non-electrical hazards, both actual and potential?
Is the work area clear of obstructions to allow for easy access and exit?
Is the isolation point clearly marked or labelled, clear of obstructions so as to allow for easy access, and capable of being operated quickly?
Has the person with management or control of the workplace been consulted about the proposed electrical work?
Do you have a safe work method statement for the task at hand? This should state the control measures required to eliminate or minimise the risks.
Have you ensured the person carrying out the work is a competent person?
Have you ensured that the person carrying out the work has tools that are suitable for the work, properly tested and maintained in good working order?
Have you ensured that the person carrying out the work has testing equipment that is suitable for the work, properly tested, and maintained in good working order?
Have you ensured that the person carrying out the work has PPE that is suitable for the work, properly tested and in good working order? (For example safety helmet and boots, insulating gloves).
Do you have the appropriate insulating mats and sheeting?
Is a safety observer present?
Note: a safety observer is not required for electrical work if it only involves testing and the risk assessment shows that there is no serious risk associated with the work.
Are the necessary first aid facilities provided and accessible and are unauthorised persons prevented from entering the work area?
Part 4: After completing the work
Have the installations/circuits/equipment been restored to a safe and operable condition?
Have all tags and locking-off devices been removed?
The model Code of Practice: Managing electrical risks in the workplace has been amended since its publication in February 2016, including a number of amendments agreed to in 2018 as part of a technical and usability review of the model Code. The current version, dated October 2018, incorporates all of those amendments.