New report shows government inaction putting innocent lives at risk

Master Electricians Australia RSS Feed

21 December 2015

A new report launched today has found that innocent Australians continue to lose their lives to electrocution, more than 16 months after urgent recommendations were handed down to mandate the installation of safety switches across the country.

Master Electricians Australia’s (MEA’s) Switch Thinking Report 2015/2016 update, launched today, has found that 15 people die in Australian homes each year in electrical accidents who would be saved by a simple safety switch, however no state or territory government has been willing to mandate their installation.

MEA CEO Malcolm Richards said that almost two and a half years had passed since Coroner Michael Barnes adopted MEA’s urgent recommendations to mandate safety switches on all circuits, following the electrocution of three young workers during the then-Federal Government’s botched Home Insulation Program (HIP), and more than a year and a half had passed since Commissioner Ian Hanger followed suit after the Royal Commission into the HIP.

“People like trades workers Matthew Fuller, Reuben Barnes and Mitchell Sweeney who died during the HIP in Queensland, or electrical workers like young Jayden Zapelli who died while helping to install a light fitting at a house in Western Australia; and residents such as the two men electrocuted at their unit just two months ago in New South Wales, shouldn’t have died, simply because there was no safety switch to cut the flow of electricity,” Mr Richards.

“A safety switch is designed to cut the power to an electrical circuit within as little as 0.03 of a second in the event of an electric shock, and the technology is widely available and relatively cheap within the context of a home.

“But while ever our governments sit on their hands and refuse to legislate their installation, these senseless and tragic deaths will continue,” he said.

The report has found that in addition to 15 deaths each year, as many as 300 people are hospitalised with serious electrical injuries and burns.

“My commitment to these small and simple devices started when my life was saved by one as a teenager, and grew every stronger during my time as an electrical inspector, investigating electrocution accidents.

“The daunting job of communicating with grieving relatives was made all the more distressing by having to explain that for as little as $200, their loved one could still have been alive,” he said.

The report conservatively estimates that there is still a deficit of around 30 million safety switches across Australia.

“We believe the responsibility rests with legislators and policy makers.  Just as seat belts and bicycle helmets have become mandatory across Australia, so too must governments move to mandate safety switches on every circuit in every home,” he said.

Malcolm Richards is available for interview. Please phone SAS Media & Communications on 0447755893.