Ceiling space fatality
WorkSafe Qld has reported that in February 2022, an electrical worker died in a home ceiling space. It is believed he was working on the air-conditioning system at the time. These findings are not yet confirmed, and investigations are continuing into the exact cause of the death.
There are risks of serious injury or fatality when working in ceiling spaces. WorkSafe Qld stresses the importance of understanding and managing the risks before entering a ceiling space.
In most buildings, much of the electrical wiring for lights, socket outlets, air conditioning and other electrical equipment runs through the ceiling space. Anyone who enters the space is at risk of electric shock. Other risks associated with working in ceiling spaces include the risk of falling from height; excessive heat; dust; and biological hazards such as vermin, insects and moulds.
Before entering a ceiling space, the safety body advises workers to:
- turn the power off at the main switchboard and either tape or label it to stop it being turned back on by someone else while you’re in the ceiling. Some electrical equipment such as hot water systems or stoves may have a separate switch. It’s safest to turn off all the switches and circuit breakers at the main switchboard;
- complete a pre-work risk assessment of the roof cavity by looking around the ceiling space to identify any hazards that may pose risks.
Risks may include, for example:
- high temperatures;
- type of insulation material (also check insulation material isn’t covering any electrical fittings or equipment, especially downlights);
- accessibility to the work area (like cramped and awkward positions);
- location of electrical cables, fittings and equipment, water or gas piping;
- possible presence of dangerous wildlife such as snakes.
Even with the power off, ensure contact with electrical cables and equipment is avoided as some cables, such as consumer service lines, may still be live. Also check for solar PV systems which may have DC supply cables that are live during daylight.
Note: turning off electricity to the property at the main switchboard does not turn off the electricity supply from the street to the switchboard. This means the incoming overhead service lines and the cables supplying the switchboard will still be live. Extreme care must be taken to avoid touching any of these live overhead electrical lines or supply cables.
For more advice on performing work activities in ceiling spaces, as well as a list of resources, visit: https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/news-and-events/alerts/incident-alerts/2022/electrical-worker-fatality.
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