Electrical Incidents and Prosecutions (June – August 2023)

Electrical incidents and prosecutions we were made aware of since our last newsletter are summarised below.

Employers and workers are encouraged to ensure all legal requirements and controls are in place when carrying out work to prevent heartache, loss of production, fines, imprisonment, etc.

Arc Flash Incident While Testing for ‘Dead’

An electrician received arc flash burns when testing for ‘dead’. He was to replace a damaged LV contactor and overload fuse. The pump at the end of the final sub-circuit had a bearing that had failed causing the damage to the motor contactor and fuse. It appears the circuit breaker protecting the circuit was also damaged.

Luckily the electrician received only minor burns when testing the socket outlet on the circuit.

Issues: testing for ‘dead’ is ‘live’ work and should be treated as such – legislation also requires this. This means TREATING THE CIRCUIT AS IF IT WAS ‘LIVE’ and implementing all legislated controls and any other controls necessary to ensure safety. This includes wearing arc flash PPE to the required level from signage or as per AS/NZS 4836 if there are no arc flash signs. https://worksafe.tas.gov.au/topics/Health-and-Safety/safety-alerts/moulded-case-circuit-breaker-arc-flash-incident

Electric Shock Incidents

DIY Device – a DIY etching device caused the builder of the device to become unconscious when the device was energised. He was subsequently revived. He had used a 2,200 V microwave transformer, jumper cables and two nails in a piece of wood that had been soaked in salt water, for the etching machine.

Electrocution in a Roof Space – a 24 year old electrician was found dead in a roof space in Perth. All trades are encouraged to turn off the electricity supply before entering a roof space – this is a legal requirement in WA.

Electrocution in a Lake in USA – A 24-year-old man was ‘electrocuted’ when he jumped off a dock into Georgia’s Lake Lanier. He was pulled from the water, taken to hospital and died there. Neighbours took a boat to help the victim and one person jumped in the water. The rescuer felt a burning sensation that he recognised as an electrical shock. He swam ashore, turned off a power box near the dock, and then re-entered the water to help the victim. The property was less than 3 years old.

Kerryn’s Story – she was 35 years old when she was electrocuted by a non-compliant submersible pump. Her parents tell her story. https://www.electricalsafety.qld.gov.au/electrical-equipment/kerryns-story?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=J798-2023-Is-the-electrical-equipment-you-install-safe&utm_content=Watch+Kerry%27s+story&utm_source=cust15149.au.v6send.net

Spa Shocks – Two Gold Coast homes were getting electric shocks from the water in their backyard spas. 4 volts measured – details of the incidents are scarce but it sounds like a neutral-earth voltage issue. Solutions for that type of problem include, balancing the neutral load, reconductoring the neutral, replacing fault neutral connections, etc..

Switchboard Arc Flash – a 29-year-old electrical worker made contact with live electrical parts while undertaking cleaning.

VIC – another Victorian electrician was hospitalised after an explosion in a switchboard. He pierced a cable with his pliers and received burns to his left hand. Circuit breakers had been turned off but the service fuse was not removed.

33 year old electrician died after making contact with a ‘live’ conductor in a switchboard.

Lightning Incidents

Two people struck dead by lightning in Barberton, South Africa while sheltering under a tree.

Lightning kills one person and injures three others in Guinea while making tea under a mango tree.

Lightning kills two pupils, leaves one badly burnt in Budaka, Uganda. It was drizzling and pupils were playing at a borehole at the time of the incident.

Lightning kills 5 people in Lufu, Democratic Republic of Congo. The victims were three daughters of a policeman and two men. Another resident of the village of Mpanga, in the Bamboma sector, was also struck by lightning in a separate incident, bringing total number of people killed by lightning in less than a week in the same territory of Songololo to six.

Lightning kills a 15 year old girl in Ghana. Lightning, which accompanied a downpour, hit Odumase, the Municipal capital on Saturday, May 13, 2023 at around 4.30pm. Evelyn Agyenim Boateng was struck and killed. She was a form two student who was preparing a meal for her family.

Lightning kills father and two sons in Uganda. The incident occurred at about 2pm on a Sunday during a downpour. The 35 year old father and two sons, 5 and 7 years old, died.

Lightning kills 2 school children, 8 and 11 years old, on the Ivory Coast while waiting to be picked up after school at about 6pm.

A ‘Max Air’ Boeing Max 747 conveying 556 Jigawa pilgrims and 21 crew made an emergency landing in Kano after a ‘lightning strike’ over Nigeria. Lightning struck the nose of the plane. Repairs were needed after the emergency landing.

Prosecutions/Disciplinary Actions

NZ electrician was prosecuted after the disconnection of an earth conductor from a socket outlet which remained connected to the power and incorrectly using red sleeving over a green/yellow protective earth conductor.

Another NZ electrician was prosecuted for failing to adequately make 2 joints to an underground mains cable, failing to bury an underground cable at the correct depth and installing underground marker tape, failing to ensure that any openings for cable entry into the distribution switchboard greater than 5mm were sealed to prevent possible drafting effect which would spread fire.

Perth – an electrician was fined $3,500 plus costs for failing to ensure an installation was safe after being employed to inspect and test electrical work in a new house. A hole in a wall exposed an energised cable connected to a light circuit.

VIC – EnergySafe Victoria has issued 8 fines totalling approx. $37,000 for breaches of vegetation clearances to overhead mains.

VIC – An apprentice came into contact with live parts of a junction box while working without supervision during the rewiring of a house. He was working under a house while his supervisor was in the roof. The apprentice subsequently required skin grafts to his hand and needed nine months of rehabilitation. The company director received fines of approximately $36,000 and the onsite supervisor was fined $2,500.

WA – An unqualified person gave vulnerable consumers illegal advice about switchboard upgrades. The company was fined $75,000.

Warnings

Solar Battery Fire – EnergySafe Victoria is urging property owners to use licenced electricians instead of installing solar battery systems themselves. This follows a fire started by a solar battery system. The system warned of a problem two days before the fire. No one was injured in the incident.

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