The electric shock incident of a young electrical apprentice on a Canberra building site had the entire country concerned, including WorkSafe who have launched a new audit to target unsafe practices such as allowing apprentices to work alone thereby endangering their safety.
The incident in Canberra has highlighted the dangerous rate of injury particularly relating to apprentices on construction sites. The serious injury rate in the ACT is double the national average and incidents such as this only exacerbating the problem.
Young workers shouldn’t be working alone, especially when engaging in dangerous tasks such as those undertaken by electricians. 2 apprentices suffered electric shocks this year alone, a type of injury that can cause injuries including burns and disturbances to heart rhythm (heart failure) that could be fatal.
According to the AC T’s Work Safety Commissioner, incidents such as these are becoming increasingly common due to the pressures and demands of construction work and the need to maximize profits while minimizing expenses. Companies are charging tradesmen rates for work performed by apprentices and endangering apprentice’s lives in the process.
Young electrical apprentices in the ACT are being forced to work without appropriate supervision, illegally, audits will hopefully aim to combat these types of practices.
This post from Canberratimes.com.au has more:
The ACT’s Work Safety Commissioner will launch an audit and compliance campaign for electrical apprentices following two serious accidents in the ACT in recent months where apprentices received electric shocks while working without supervision. In both cases, the apprentices were on metal ladders at the time of the accidents, despite the ladders displaying warnings they were not to be used during electrical work.
The NSW-ACT assistant secretary of the Electrical Trades Union of Australia, Neville Betts, said he was both disgusted and concerned to hear increasing anecdotal evidence of electrical apprentices regularly being left unsupervised due to job demand pressures in the industry. ”Their lives are being put at risk for commercial gain.”
Mr Betts approached WorkSafe after a young female fourth-year apprentice received an electric shock and fell off a ladder in January on a worksite at the Aurora apartment complex on the Kingston foreshore.
In September, another fourth-year apprentice suffered serious head injuries after receiving an electric shock and falling five meters from a ladder while completing maintenance at the old bus depot in Phillip. He is believed to be still recovering from the accident and subsequent surgeries.
ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe said both accidents were quite serious.Mr Betts said it was a requirement of their training contract that electrical apprenticeships be supervised by a licensed electrician during any work with live wires during their four-year apprenticeship.
”In both these recent accidents, these young people were not being supervised,” he said.
WorkSafe will be launching education campaigns to enlighten employers and workers about supervision requirements before they begin an audit and enforcement campaign in the next couple of weeks.
The problem is particularly concerning because apprentices are basically defenseless against their superiors and often face losing their jobs if they refuse to do the jobs assigned to them, whether or not it endangers their health and safety. It is for this reason that WorkSafe has announced the roll out of an industry-wide campaign aimed at encouraging workers to speak up about safety matters. The campaign dubbed “Speak Up about Safety” is to promote workers bringing safety issues to the attention of their bosses and encourage employers to speak freely about their safety concerns, something young and inexperienced workers would ordinarily battle with.