Arc flash causes injury and property damage

Energy type: 
Electricity
 
Event summary: 
Energy Safety was notified of an arc flash incident causing injury and property damage that occurred during installation of a smart meter. Burns to the back of the left hand from the splattering of melted metal. This was treated by a GP (cooling and dressing) with a follow up assessment at hospital. The meter cabinet was extensively damaged and required replacement.
 
Accident ID: 
151218-05
 
Accident date: 
14 December 2015
 
Site: 
Commercial
 
Environment: 
Building
 
Voltage: 
400
 
Equipment: 
LV Commercial Switchboard; Revenue Meter
 
Accident type: 
Burns
 
Casualty: 
Non-fatality
 
Injury: 
Burn
 
Property damage level: 
Restricted to the direct vicinity of the equipment
 
Outcome of investigation: 

Energy Safety’s investigation determined that a Metering Technician replaced a revenue meter while it was still live. In doing so, while attempting to terminate the last phase conductor into the new revenue meter terminals, a short circuit was created causing considerable damage to the metering panel and minor burn injuries to the technician’s left hand that required medical attention. 

Energy Safety considers the company replacing the meter potentially failed to take all practicable steps under the Electricity Act and Regulations. The company provided an employee, or a contractor, a choice to work live in their "Low Voltages Live Work Process – Meter Change" procedure rather than starting with the premise that live work should be avoided.

Energy Safety notes that when replacing a whole current meter the power is going to be interrupted to the installation and therefore there is no foreseeable reason to permit this work to be carried out live.

Energy Safety noted and advised the company that there were a number of omissions within the procedure for live work.

Energy Safety recommended that the company withdraw this procedure and provide alternative methods of disconnection, such as the removal of pole fuses by an approved competent worker, for any work that does not have readily accessible disconnection device.

Energy Safety concluded there were potential breaches of the Electrical (Safety) Regulations 2010 specifically regulation 16 & regulation 101 and a potential offence under section 163C (1) of the Electricity Act 1992.  This matter has been referred to the compliance officer for consideration.