Warning on dangers of working in roof spaces

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Photo: SafetyCulture Library

Building and Energy (formerly EnergySafety) and WorkSafe WA have issued a reminder on the importance of understanding and avoiding the electrical hazards in roof spaces. 

Changes to safety regulations announced by the State Government require the main switch to be switched off prior to work for reward being undertaken in ceiling spaces of domestic-type dwellings. The new regulations will be effective on Monday (14 May 2018).

Due to the inherent risks, tradespeople will be required by law to switch the main switch off before entering the ceiling space. Although the ban does not apply to homeowners, it is strongly recommended, they do so too.

Director of Energy Safety Ken Bowron has cautioned homeowners to be mindful of the electrical hazards in roof spaces.

“Homeowners may need to access the roof space of the family home but there are some basic safeguards that need to be in place to do this safely,” Mr. Bowron said.

“First and foremost, it is strongly recommended the electricity main switch in the home’s main switchboard be switched off before the roof space is accessed.

“There may be wiring in the roof space with damaged insulation or exposed live parts, posing a clear risk of electric shock and possible electrocution.”

Mr. Bowron suggested buying battery-powered LED headlamps to provide lighting for anyone needing to enter their roof space.

“While moving around in roof spaces, good lighting is essential to avoid stepping on electrical cables or inadvertently kicking plastic junction boxes or the tops of light fittings that enclose cable terminations,” he said.

“Homeowners need to be aware that workers will generally need to switch off the electricity so they can comply with the new safety standards while carrying out the required work,” Mr. Bowron said.

“I’m sure homeowners would agree that the safety of workers is paramount and that it would be preferable to have the minor inconvenience of no lights and power than to risk a serious injury or possible damage to their electrical equipment.”

Mr. Bowron also issued a reminder that DIY electrical work is illegal, and that a licensed electrical contractor must be engaged to carry out any new wiring or repair work.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Ian Munns added that homeowners needed to keep in mind that a home’s roof space would effectively become a workplace when a tradesperson entered it.

“It’s really important for homeowners to understand that the safety of workers in the roof space must be maintained, and that means that in the majority of circumstances the electricity must be switched off while the work is being done,” Mr. Munns said.

“This will apply to any domestic-type building and service trade such as electrical, gas, pest control workers, and installers of air conditioning, insulation, security systems and antennas.

“Any worker who agrees to leave the mains electricity on while he or she is working in the roof space will not only be putting their safety and health and possibly their job at risk but will also be breaking the law.”

For more information on electrical and, general workplace safety issues visit the Building and Energy website at www.dmirs.wa.gov.au/energysafety or the WorkSafe website at www.dmirs.wa.gov.au/worksafe

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