67 - Apprentice falls through ceiling

Date: 30/11/2016

Last month a 2nd year apprentice fell through a ceiling in a home as he was fixing cables for new power and lighting circuits. The incident occurred when the apprentice’s boot became caught on a roof beam causing him to loose balance. As he fell he tried to steady himself by putting his hand on the nearby air conditioning plenum but this gave way under his weight and his face smashed against another roof beam. Accept for the quick thinking of his supervising electrician nearby who grabbed his shirt the apprentice would have continued his fall through the hole in the ceiling and onto the floor below. Despite this save the apprentice sustained fractures of the C2 and C3 vertebrae in his neck, as a result he is spending the next twelve weeks in a neck brace followed by months of physiotherapy before he can return to his apprenticeship.

Had the neck fracture been more serious or if the apprentice had continued his fall to the ground he could easily have sustained spinal cord damage and possibly the following very debilitating injuries.

• Paralysis in arms, hands, torso, and legs

• Limited range of motion

• Loss of diaphragm function

• Requirement of a ventilator for breathing

• Trouble controlling bladder and bowel function

Recommendations

Electricians are often required to work in ceilings. They are hazardous places to work and there are not too many engineering controls that can be put in place to minimise the risks. There is however some precautions that you can take to minimise the probability of harm.

• Electrical risks – turn off the power at the main switch

• Heat – try to do work in the cooler hours of the day, stay very well hydrated and have regular breaks to drink and eat

• Lighting – roofs are typically dark so make sure there is enough light, modern head lamps are really good options

• Falls from height – as much is possible ensure you’re holding on to a solid roof member, don’t carry tools in your hand while moving use a tool bag, belt or lanyard.

• Spiders and other insects – wear gloves, have a good look around before starting your work, wear EGT required uniform (long and long) with sleeves buttoned.

Feedback

For more information on this safety alert contact the OSH Team on 6241 6100