Whether you are removing plaster from a wall, working in a ceiling space, or fitting off an electrical circuit (if you’re licenced, of course!), here is what you need to know about electrical isolation.
Contact with electricity continues to be one of construction’s biggest sources of injury and death. Although sparkies do experience the brunt of these injuries, other trades, such as chippies and plumbers, are also at risk of electric shock or electrocution by failing to properly isolate an electrical circuit. Despite the severity of injuries sustained after contact with electricity, risk controls are inexpensive, accessible, and easy to implement.
“Despite the severity of injuries sustained after contact with electricity, risk controls are inexpensive, accessible, and easy-to-implement.”
First things first, it’s important to understand the difference between de-energised and isolated. De-energised refers to simply turning something off – say, a circuit breaker. Isolated refers to turning something off and locking it out. Isolation prevents electrical circuits from being accidentally energised; de-energisation does not. Cables ties and electrical tape do not achieve electrical isolation.
To successfully isolate an electrical circuit, follow these five simple steps.
All sources of electricity which may be met during the task need to be identified. This includes sources such as generator supply, solar supply, and battery backup. Once you have identified all sources of electricity, choose the most appropriate point(s) to isolate the electrical supply.
Gather your tools and equipment to perform the supply, making sure they are fit for purpose. Tools and equipment may include a lock dog, a padlock, tags, a volt tester, and personal protective equipment.
Apply the lockdog and padlock at the most appropriate point(s). Tagout: Fill out and apply the tag to the padlock. Including your name, contact information, item of plant and reason is considered best practice.
Test the isolation is effective by testing for voltage. When doing so, test the tester on a known live source, test the isolated circuit, and re-test the tester on the known live source. This is to prove that your tester is working properly.
When working on or near electricity, don’t trust your life on a bit of electrical tape. Electrical isolation is simple, inexpensive, and should be used by everyone in the industry. For more information, please visit www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/electrical