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Electricity is a common hazard that is responsible for a significant number of work related fatalities and injuries each year.
Common electrical risks include:
- Electric shock causing injury or death. The electric shock may be received by direct or indirect contact, tracking through or across a medium, or by arcing.
- Arcing, explosion or fire causing burns. The injuries are often suffered because arcing or explosion or both occur when high fault currents are present.
- Electric shock from ‘step-and-touch’ potentials.
- Toxic gases causing illness or death. Burning and arcing associated with electrical equipment may release various gases and contaminants.
- Fire resulting from an electrical fault.
Schools and divisions are responsible for organising workplace inspections, including the inspection, testing and tagging of electrical equipment. This includes (but is not limited to) ensuring electrical installations, electrical articles and associated equipment (including cables, appliances, meters, wires etc) are safe to use.
Electrical testing and tagging must be completed at the intervals specified within AS 3760:2010. As a general rule electrical equipment used in the specified hositle environments must be tested at least once every 12 months. More frequent testing may be required, for example in relation to:
- Electrical equipment used in manufacturing and workshop environments - at least once every 6 months.
- Commercial cleaning equipment - at least once every 6 months.
- Hire equipment - at least once every 3 months.
A hostile environment is defined as one in which the equipment or appliance is normally subject to events or operating conditions ikely to result in damage to the equipment. This includes but is not limited to mechanical damage, exposure to moisture, heat, vibration, chemicals, and dust.
The following information provides guidance on the use of electrical equipment at Western Sydney University.
Brand new equipment which has never been put into use previously, does not need to be tested prior to use. Brand new equipment must be visually inspected prior to each use.
The date the electrical equipment was placed into service must be recorded (eg on the record of installation or elsewhere) and electrical equipment must also be fitted with a tag stating:
- that the equipment is 'new to service'
- the date of entry into service
- the date when the first electrical safety test is due
- that the equipment has not been tested
Extension leads must only be used as a temporary solution. For longer term applications a new outlet, or an portable outlet device with overload protection, must be used.
Extension leads must be checked prior to each use to ensure they are in good condition. Discolouration may be an indicator of overheating due to overloading. The lead should be treated as damaged and tagged out.
Consideration must be given for the introduction of a trip risk. Leads should not be used in trafficable areas and must be shielded or taped down. Additionally, heavy equipment rolling over or impacting the lead as it may damage the insulation and wires causing shorting.
Electrical appliances must be regularly visually inspected for damage and must only be used for the application they are designed for.
Appliances must be used in a dry area. Fixed covers or guarding must not be removed.
Power boards must have overload protection and built in on/off switches.
Each power board must be plugged directly into a general power outlet. Boards must be positioned in a well-ventilated area free from dust, dirt and liquids.
Double adaptors, and similar devices, must not be used.
Powerpoints must have earth leakage circuit breakers or safety switches fitted, and must be labelled to indicate the type of protection is in use and to what circuit it is connected.
Contact Capital Works and Facilities to have report an unlabelled powerpoint.
Residual Current Devices (RCDs)
An RCD must be used where there is an electrical risk associated with the supply of electricity to ‘plug in’ electrical equipment in a hostile environment.
This includes where:
- The normal use of electrical equipment exposes the equipment to operating conditions that are likely to result in damage to the equipment or a reduction in its expected life span.
- Electrical equipment is moved between different locations in circumstances where damage to the equipment or to a flexible electricity supply cord is reasonably likely.
- Electrical equipment is frequently moved during its normal use.
- Electrical equipment forms part of, or is used in connection with, an amusement device.
Fan forced coil heaters must not be used at the University. These devices pose a high fire risk and consume a great amount of energy. They are often not fitted with a cut-off switch and have relatively exposed elements making them susceptible to trapping dust and debris.
Convective panel heaters or oil column heaters may be used as they don’t have any exposed elements.
Unsafe Electrical Equipment
Equipment found to be damaged, or that is considered unsuitable for use, must be:
- Removed from service.
- Labelled as unsafe for use.
- Reported to the supervisor responsible for the equipment, and to the WHS unit as a hazard.