Don't Work Live!

When you work with electricity every day it can be easy to forget just how dangerous it can be.

134 workers died at work between 2003-2014 due to contact with electricity. In just three months (November 2015 – January 2016) there were 21 incidents that involved contact with electricity reported to WorkSafe Victoria, 4 of which resulted in a work-related fatality.* One death is too many: 134 is an appalling tragedy we have a responsibility to address.

The tragedy of lives cut short is an unacceptable price for electricians to pay just for undertaking our trade. We’ve lost too many colleagues in recent years, and each leaves behind a grieving family.

Your safety should always be the first consideration, and as a licensed electrician you have the right to refuse undertaking unsafe work, regardless of pressure from the boss or customer.

Don’t risk it — don’t work live.

What is working live?

Working Live is working on, or near, live electrical equipment. Specifically, it is defined as:

A situation where an electrical worker is working on or near exposed energised conductors or live conductive parts and there is a reasonable possibility that the electrical worker’s body, or any conducting medium the electrical worker may be carrying or touching during the course of the work, may come closer to the exposed energized conductors or live conductive parts than 500mm.

The risks of working live

Working on live equipment may result in electric shock or arc blast and flash burn injuries.

When working on, or near, energised conductors of electrical equipment, you should be aware that fault currents of up to 20 times the rated current of the supply transformer can flow for short times during arc fault conditions.

Arcs that are produced under these conditions have the energy to cause an explosion and/or melt metallic switchboard cubicles and cause severe burns to the skin and/or cause flash burns to the face and eyes.

Circuit protection may not operate in such circumstances.

What to do if you are asked to work live

As a licensed electrician, you have the right to refuse unsafe work. In almost all circumstances, working live is unsafe. If you are threatened, coerced or forced to undertake unsafe work, you can call on your ETU Organiser or OHS Officers for assistance.

Giving in to intimidation or bullying when your safety is at risk is never worth it.

For more detailed information about working on, or near, live electrical equipment, please refer to the ETU’s Safety Alert Click Here

* Worker-related traumatic injury fatalities 2014, Safe Work Australia.


  • Safety shall not be compromised because of operational pressures to carry out the work.
  • All workers shall be made aware of the hazards of the tasks and the control measures required to mitigate them, as detailed in the Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS).
  • No work is to be carried out on live electrical conductors, except for work on approved extra low voltage equipment.
  • Rescheduling the work to a time when power can be isolated must be considered first
  • Working on live electrical equipment must only be considered as a last resort and when an adequate risk process has been undertaken.