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Safety when working in a roof space in WA

A recent WA fatality has highlighted the importance of complying with safety requirements when working in a roof space. New regulations introduced in May 2018 apply to any type of work that involves being within the roof space of a house or domestic premises and have been designed to mitigate risk.

The full details of the incident that took place on the WA worksite can be found at the Worksafe website.

Since May 2018, work in a roof space of a Class 1, Class 2 or Class10a building, as classified under the Building Regulations 2012, must not be carried out unless the building’s electrical installation is de energised by a competent person.

What work does the regulation apply to?

This requirement is not just limited to electrical work and/or a particular electrical circuit. It applies to any type of work that involves being within the roof space of a house or domestic-type premises, and includes:

  • electrical work (including cabling)
  • gasfitting
  • plumbing
  • installation, upgrade or removal of insulation
  • building security, structural and vermin inspection activity
  • roof and ceiling repair
  • any other activity in the roof space.

What are the hazards?

Electrical hazards are not always obvious. There are many electrical hazards that may pose a risk of electrocution to a worker within a roof space, such as:

  • deteriorated insulation around wiring (i.e. through age or rodent damage, etc.)
  • live, unused wiring, including previous electrical work left in an unsafe state
  • non-compliant electrical components or methods in use
  • solar power system wiring installed in a non-compliant way – note that if wired incorrectly, solar system wiring may be live even if the main switch is off
  • metallised products, such as insulation foil in contact with an electrical conductor due to poor installation practice
  • a combination of any of the above.

How to control the risks

Risks need to be managed to avoid contact with any energised service, apparatus or overhead electrical lines, supply cables or consumer mains. This includes making sure that:

  • each main switch at the main switchboard (there might be more than one) is switched off and isolated 
  • any other sources of electricity that run through the roof space (e.g. from solar photovoltaic panels [PV systems] or batteries) are also identified and isolated
  • the electrical installation is not re-energised while the work is in progress (e.g. by a resident or worker who is unaware the work is ongoing). Lock-out kits are a practicable means of ensuring an electrical installation remains de-energised and should be suitable for most domestic installations.

Risks associated with heat, pests, asbestos and falls also need to be considered and evaluated before entering a domestic roof space.

Additional guidance on how to identify hazards and control risks when working in ceiling spaces can be found in Worksafe WA’s Guidance Note ‘Working Roof Spaces’.

Please remember that any electrical, plumbing or gas work should be carried out by a licensed professional.

HIA Safety has a team of qualified specialists that can provide one-on-one tailored consultancy and can develop unique solutions to meet your business’s needs. 

To find out more, contact HIA’s Building Services team.

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