Hidden dangers in old power transformers
Building and Energy urges electricians working on power transformers to exercise caution after a recent incident where electrical workers were exposed to hazardous asbsestos-containing material (ACM).
In January 2018, electrical workers undertaking repairs to a high voltage (HV) power transformer which had failed, disconnected the transformer by unbolting and removing a gland plate from the base of the transformers junction box.
The gland plate broke while being removed. When the workers turned the gland plate over, the found “Asbestos” stencilled on its underside. At the time of the incident, the electrical workers were not wearing respirators.
When ACM is disturbed the fibres released, if inhaled, can lead to diseases such as mesothelioma.
The Department of Mines, Industry, Regulation and Safety issued a Significant Incident Report No. 263 on 8 June 2018 which identified the causes to the incident to be the failure of the workers to identify ACM in the power transformer prior to the commencement of work and also prepare and implement a Safe Work Method Statement to prevent damage to the gland plate. The power transformer had also not been recorded in the asbestos register for the site.
The following actions have been recommended when working on power transformers:
- As power transformers manufactured before 2004 may contain ACM, a competent person should survey older models for any traces of the hazardous material. A competent person in this instance is someone who has ACM experience, such as a licensed asbestos assessor. HV transformers must be isolated as per the requirements of the Mines Safety and Inspection Regulations 1995 prior to the competent person conducting the inspection and sampling or removing any ACM.
- The results of this competent person’s survey should be recorded in the asbestos register for the site.
- Where ACM may be present, appropriate warning signage and labelling must be provided.
- Competent persons must be used to remove asbestos safely from the site as per the Code of practice for the safe removal of asbestos.
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