Supervisions, SWMS, and Isolation
Under occupational health and safety law in Victoria, employers have a fundamental duty to, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain for their employees a working environment that is safe and without risk to health.
This fundamental duty supports other, more specific, duties, such as:
- the duty to provide a safe work method statement (SWMS)
- provide a system of work to isolate energised electrical installations; and
- the respective duties to provide information, instruction, training and supervision to employees to enable them to perform their work safely.
A SWMS must be developed for one or more of the 19 high-risk construction works, set out in regulation 322 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017. This includes works on or near energised electrical installations or services. The SWMS must state the hazards and risks associated with the work, sufficiently describe how to control the risks, how the risk controls are to be implemented, and set out and expressed in a way that is understandable to the employees who use it.
System of work
Where employees are required to isolate energised electrical installations, employers should ensure a system of work is in place so that work can be performed safely. The system of work may include providing suitable “lock out, tag out” equipment, instructions and training, and/or ensuring employees are familiar with and understand the relevant electrical drawings before isolating the electrical installation. When isolating electrical installations, you should:
- Identify all sources of electricity which may be present (e.g., alternating current mains, solar supply, battery backup etc.);
- Identify all essential points of isolation, including scenarios where back-feed may be present;
- Isolate, and lock and tag all identified points of isolation; and
- Confirm effective isolation by testing your volt tester on a known live source, testing the isolated circuit, and retesting your volt tester on a known live source.”
It is important to recognise the difference between an ‘isolated’ electrical installation and a ‘de-energised’ electrical installation.
- An isolated electrical installation is an installation that has been locked and tagged out.
- A de-energised electrical installation is where the supply circuit breaker (or similar) is in the “off” position and not locked and tagged out.
Information, instruction, training and supervision
Employers also need to provide information, instruction, training and supervision to their employees to enable them to safely perform their work. This may include providing information on how certain volt testers work, instructions on how to safely isolate an electrical installation, and training on how to test and store low voltage gloves.
An employer’s duty to supervise employees is important and often overlooked. Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) has published guidance that outlines general supervision levels for apprentice electricians, depending on their year level and the task being performed. WorkSafe Victoria has also published a range of guidance on how to manage electrical hazards in the workplace.