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Safe working in ceiling spaces

Safety Alert
1 November 2011

In 2009-2010, three workers were electrocuted during installing of insulation in ceiling spaces and a fourth died of heat stress while in a ceiling space. In October 2011, a contractor engaged in home renovation work was electrocuted while working in the ceiling space. In 2015, a South Australian worker suffered critical heat illness while in a ceiling space.

Possible causes: Electrical

Electrical hazards include:

  • exposed live electrical conductor / wiring
  • electrical connections where the condition of wiring has deteriorated, often associated with older buildings
  • unused wiring left in the ceiling that could be still connected to the switchboard
  • past electrical work not performed by a competent person.

Possible causes: Heat

Heat hazards include:

  • high air temperatures, frequently exceeding 50°C in summer, contributed to by strong radiant heat on the roof
  • reduced ability for the body to cool due to poor ventilation and lack of air movement
  • lack of heat stress awareness.

Other hazards

Other hazards include:

  • bites or stings from insects including spiders and wasps
  • falling through the ceiling
  • falling off ladders while accessing the ceiling
  • exposure to bird and / or vermin droppings or remains
  • asbestos and dust exposure
  • working in awkward positions and postures – potential for muscular or skeletal strain / injury
  • working in poor light.

Action required

To avoid electrocution, you must:

  • switch off the electricity supply to the whole area before you touch, move or physically disturb any electrical wiring, cable or junction box connection
  • always seek the services of competent people, such as an electrician
  • only attempt electrical work or tasks where you have the required skills or qualifications.

To avoid heat-illness you must:

  • determine the safe entry time by assessing the temperature, through feeling for and/or measuring heat, before entering the space
  • ensure all workers are trained in heat-risk awareness and how to recognise heat stress symptoms in themselves and their workmates.

Other safety considerations:

  • before entry into the roof / ceiling space, ensure any danger from vermin or insect activity has been eliminated or minimised
  • always use crawl boards to walk across ceiling space
  • ensure your entry and exit points are easily accessible
  • ensure that ladders are stabilised and secure and there's no chance of slipping when being used
  • consider the use of appropriate personal protective equipment to minimise risks.
Disclaimer: While care has been taken to ensure the accuracy and currency of the information in this publication, at the time of reading it may not be sufficiently accurate, current or complete to suit your individual needs. Reliance on the information in this publication is at your own risk. SafeWork SA accepts no liability for any loss resulting from your reliance on it. To best meet your work health and safety obligations refer to current Acts, Regulations and Approved Codes of Practice.