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A 25-year-old A grade electrician is living proof - but only just - of the terrible consequences that can be suffered when a switchboard explodes because something goes wrong while working “live”.

It took the “slip of a screwdriver” and just two seconds for his hand to suffer dreadful injuries in an incident which happened just before last Christmas. He admits he’s “pretty lucky” as he could so easily have been killed. Mainly because he’s a young man his injuries are healing well – better than expected in fact – but he says he’s been through hell and back and the recovery process will take many months and possibly years.

He now states “Never work live, it’s just not worth it. Most would not be aware of the repercussions of what can happen.

The young electrician received burns to his hands, arms, legs and abdomen during the incident.


The incident and recovery has involved among other things, the following:

  • Being placed in an induced coma for three days,
  • Being heavily sedated and almost suffering a heart attack,
  • Suffering severe hallucinations,
  • The burns injury had him spending four weeks in the Burns Service Unit, before undergoing six weeks of rehabilitation,
  • Suffering excruciating pain each day early on in recovery when the bandages on his arms were being changed,
  • Use of skin grafts from his legs to help repair his arms – with the result that two areas of the body now need healing,
  • Causing distress for his family and work colleagues,
  • The burn recovery means that he is unable to go out in the sun without being covered up for the foreseeable future,
  • Losing muscle strength after being in bed for such a long time. He needed a walking frame to walk 20 metres and effectively had to learn to walk again,
  • Barely having enough strength to tighten the screw of a power point,
  • The need to wear compression bandages on his arms and legs.

He has no recollection of the electrical injury up to about a week before the incident. The last thing he remembers was being in the switchboard room of the club house of a retirement village.

“Judging by the damage sustained by a screwdriver found at the scene, it was concluded that he may have inserted the end of the screwdriver into the area where the live bus is located in order to adjust one or more of the bus bars. This resulted in an arcing event that travelled down the bus system to the bottom of the switchboard.

Builders controlling the site told investigators that they did not know that he was working on the switchboard in a live state, and they saw no reason why the electricity supply to the building could not have been isolated. They would have agreed to isolate the supply if they had been asked.

His employers had instructed all staff not to carry out live electrical work.

He insisted that he did not carry out work on live electrical equipment under normal circumstances and could not explain why he had not isolated the electricity supply in this instance.

The article and pictures can be found at this site

Avoiding Electrocution

Whenever you use electricity in the home or at work, make sure that you operate electrical equipment as instructed and NEVER WORK LIVE.

If You See a Problem

If you notice that a piece of equipment is damaged, DO NOT USE IT!t. Have it repaired or replace it. Turn off any electrical machinery, distribution board, or safety switch before you work on that appliance or circuit. Make sure it is "locked" safe and further more you are the only one that can turn it back on.





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