Standardising of High Voltage (HV) Training

HV Incidents

Each year industry losses millions of dollars in injury costs, production losses and equipment damage due to HV Operational incidents.

As an Electrical Superintendent/HV Specialist in industry from 2009 to 2015, I witnessed a minimum of 1 HV Operational incident each year and sometime more. That was only with two employers (one at a time) equating this right the way through industry it would add up to many incidents per year.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that these incidents are costing industry dearly. Then there is the trauma for the victims of the incidents and their families.

HV Training Available to Electrical Workers

One multinational company I worked for had 4 HV Operational incidents in two years, resulting in minor injuries and significant costs in production losses.

In February 2015 in Perth there were two fatalities and two other tradespersons who received serious burns while carrying out HV Operations. The workers it seems had received in-house HV training.

In 2014 the Western Australian government published a guide stating that all HV Operators have to be trained by an RTO to National Competency Standards.

Other states have varying requirements for training of HV Operators.

HV Operation’s Fatalities and Injuries are not acceptable

For myself and many others in industry, including Western Australia government instrumentalities of Energy Safety and WorkSafe recognise that any HV operational fatalities and injuries are not acceptable.

In a search for standards for HV Operator Training, it was found that each Australian State viewed the need for training in HV operations differently.

In industry and some government instrumentalities there is a wide belief among the electrical fraternity that a National Standard should be set to train people in HV operations.

What HV Training does the Majority of Electricians Receive?

An Electrician completes an electrical apprenticeship.

The apprentice training is centred on;

  • The domestic industry and small commercial installations
  • Knowledge of AS3000 and electrical installation work
  • Practical wiring of installations
  • Electrical theory in block releases
  • On the job training
Electrical Trade Competencies

If you review at the Core Electrical Trade Competencies for an electrician not one of them refers to High Energy situations found in HV Operations.

Electrical Workers in Australia

There are around 150,000 people in Australia with Electrical Workers Licences (Electricians).

Most are trained through an Australian Apprenticeship, while the minority from overseas have to prove experience and pass exams.

The majority of electrical work is in the domestic, light industry/commercial area.

In the domestic environment, electricians work on systems where circuit current ranges from 10 – 200 amps at low voltage and mainly low fault levels.

In heavy industry/mining environments, electricians work on systems where the circuit current available ranges up to several thousand amps at high and low voltage and very high fault levels. On top of this comes the additional hazards of HV.

Electricians in Mining/Heavy Industry

There are apprentices that come through their training in heavy/mining industry but these are in the minority.

Due to economic growth and mining booms etc. very often there is a shortage of skilled electrical workers in mining/heavy industry field.

Electrical workers in the FIFO industry have a reasonably high turnover rate so the industry need to train HV Operators on a regular basis.

Electricians whose main knowledge is the electrical domestic/light commercial field migrate into mining/heavy industry.

There is no distinction or formal training between an Electrician wiring houses with a fault level of less than 1kA and electricians working on a HV switchboard with a fault level of 30kA.

Yet the risks and hazards are extremely different.

Training of Electricians for Mining/Heavy Industry

What additional training do electricians receive who move from a Domestic to Mining/Industrial environment? Usually there is no specific electrical training apart from site inductions, health & safety etc.

If the work involves HV, then in some Australian States it is a requirement to attend a HV operator’s course but no specialised training is required in others. However no standard exists for HV training across all Australian States.

In one state at a meeting with the state regulators, it was mentioned that it is not deemed necessary for formal HV training, due to a person having a trade as an electricians.

Observations from many Years of HV Training

During my years of training electricians in HV Operations, it became evident that there is a complete lack of knowledge on high energy situations.
Up to 70% of trainees had little or no knowledge of;

  • Fault levels,
  • The hazards of HV
  • Arc Faults
Why is Training Required for HV

The risks and potential consequences of an electrical incident involving HV are significantly higher than low voltage due to the much higher quantities of energy that could be released. This justifies stringent safety designs and operating procedures to prevent injury to persons and major damage to electrical installations and buildings.

  • There is a lack of understanding of the risks and consequences
  • There is a significant difference between LV and HV Hazards
  • Enormous amounts of energy can be released in milliseconds
  • Outcomes of incidents can be severe burns and/or fatalities to multiple personnel
  • Severe financial loss to Companies
  • Severe damage to equipment
  • The many electrical worker that end up in hospital due to electrical burns
What Competences are required for HV Switching

A person who carries’ out HV switching needs to be able to understand;

  • fault currents available at HV and LV
  • the enormous amounts of energy that can be releases
  • basic protection systems
  • arc flash and its hazards
  • ring circuits and the risk of back feeds
  • earthing and testing are paramount to safety
  • that procedures must be followed
  • the ramifications of incorrect switching
  • how to read and work with circuit diagrams
  • the need to double check before an operation.

Much of which has been discussed on the previous slides, are not covered under electrical apprentice training or other professional training.

  • If there is no training, on the job training or unaccredited training of HV operators some of the results can be;
    • Incorrect procedures
    • Unsafe practices
    • Incorrect use of testing equipment
    • Use of shortcuts
    • Injuries and damage to equipment
No, Little or Inappropriate HV Training

Lack of or inappropriate HV training is often one outcome highlighted in incident investigations.

Yet all too often this is too late for victims who have been injured or worse.

Damage to equipment can mean costly replacements.

Downtime to production can also cost companies substantial costs.

Module Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations

39 Provision of information, training and instruction

  1. This regulation applies for the purposes of section 19 of the Act to a person conducting a business or undertaking.
  2. The person must ensure that information, training and instruction provided to a worker is suitable and adequate having regard to:
    1. the nature of the work carried out by the worker; and
    2. the nature of the risks associated with the work at the time the information, training or instruction is provided; and
    3. the control measures implemented.
  3. The person must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the information, training and instruction provided under this regulation is provided in a way that is readily understandable by any person to whom it is provided.

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