It is important that electrical contractors and electrical workers ensure compliance with the wiring rules, AS/NZS 3000 when installing electrical equipment and wiring in an accessible ceiling space, according to WorkCover Queensland.
Unprotected and poorly placed electric cables can easily be damaged by people entering a ceiling space.
Home occupiers and workers installing plumbing, telephone, audio, data and air conditioning services are then at risk of electric shock, either through direct contact with live parts or contact with structural metal work that has become live.
Walking on, dragging objects over, or placing objects on cable installed in a ceiling can damage cable insulation, exposing live conductors.
Cables installed over structural members in locations where they are likely to be disturbed therefore require additional protection due to the higher risk of damage.
In addition, electrical workers should be aware of sharp edges when installing cables around or on metallic and non-metallic building elements.
The wiring rules, AS/NZS 3000 outlines requirements for protection, location and support when installing cables in ceiling spaces, both solid and suspended.
Queensland’s Electrical Safety Office is currently auditing electrical installations installed in ceiling spaces to ensure they are compliant with the wiring rules and additional mechanical protection is installed where required.
Considerations to be made when carrying out work in ceiling spaces include:
Ensuring someone is aware of where you are and contact with them is maintained until work is completed
Being aware that heat and humidity may cause heat stress, so make sure fluid intake is sufficient to ensure you do not become dehydrated
Taking additional lighting (e.g. torch) with you as the lighting is generally poor in ceiling spaces
Taking care accessing and traversing the work area, avoiding tripping over debris, material and the ceiling trusses
Step carefully on ceiling joists or other beams – not the ceiling material (i.e. gyprock sheeting) – to avoid risk of falling or injury
Using/providing appropriate tools – preferably manual or battery operated tools
Being aware of the location of electrical cables, fittings and equipment and avoiding contact with them
Ensuring that, if fixing points are required (e.g. saddling TV aerial cable in place), fixings are well clear of all electrical cables and equipment
Making sure you do not damage any electrical cables or electrical equipment.
Wearing appropriate, well maintained and correctly-fitted personal protective equipment when working in dusty ceiling spaces, including:
A half-face (class p1 or p2) disposable particulate respirator, in accordance with AS/NZS 1715:2009 selection, use and maintenance of respiratory protective equipment
A head-covering and goggles, to avoid eye irritation
Long-sleeved, loose-fitting clothing and gloves, to minimise skin contact with insulation material
Wearing appropriate footwear
Keeping your work areas clean and clear of fibres and dust and place waste in plastic bags capable of containing the dust.