Fair Trading Deputy Commissioner Steve Griffin is warning NSW residents about the dangers of electricity and to use licensed electricians for all electrical work.
Every year Fair Trading reports on electrical accidents in NSW and the report for 2009-10 is now on the Fair Trading website. Mr Griffin said there were five fatalities from 51 serious accidents in 2009/10, up from four fatalities from 47 accidents in 2008/09.
"The increase in the number of accidents and fatalities is a serious concern," he said. "Half the non-fatal accidents involved working with overhead power lines and the majority of incidents involved people who were not electrical or network workers.
"Overhead power lines can be lethal accidents waiting to happen for people without proper training. Unsafe practices were identified as a factor in four of the five electrocutions in 2009/10 and the absence of safety switches was a contributing factor in three of the fatalities. Other serious factors were working with live electrical power and illegal wiring."
Mr Griffin said although the number of electrocutions had decreased over time, there was still clearly a need for people to be more aware of the risks.
"There were 29 electrocutions in the 1986/87 financial year and the number of annual deaths peaked at 23 in the 1990s," he said. "The last decade has seen a steady fall in fatality numbers since a high of 15 in 2002/03."
Do not undertake ‘do it yourself’ electrical work. All work must be carried out by a licensed electrician. Electricity can kill if used incorrectly. Electricity is invisible and gives no warning.
‘Do not work live!’ Safe work procedures are essential for all electrical workers. Risk assessment, isolation, testing and use of safety equipment are all necessary.
‘Safety switches save lives.’ Since 1991, the installation of safety switches on power circuits has been mandatory in new homes and additions. Since 2000, it has been mandatory on both lighting and power circuits of new houses and additions. Their installation is strongly recommended in existing houses; however safety switches must be regarded as an addition to, not a substitute for, maintaining the safety of the installation. Safety switches must be tested regularly according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Observe and obey electrical hazard warning notices and entry prohibited notices. Unauthorised entry into restricted areas is illegal and can be fatal.
‘Look up and live’ when working near overhead lines. Electricity can spark across a gap, so don’t take a risk, stay well away from overhead lines and substation equipment.
Make sure electrical equipment and installations are regularly checked and maintained and used properly to ensure safety. The Electricity (Consumer Safety) Act 2004 prescribes a maximum penalty of $55,000 for corporations and $16,500 for individuals who allow an installation to become unsafe.
Follow WorkCover NSW’s ‘testing and tagging’ procedure to ensure compliance with legislation. Refer to the WorkCover NSW web site at www.workcover.nsw.gov.au for details.
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