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 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.
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.