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Requirements for the effective supervision of apprentice electricians

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About Energy Safe Victoria (ESV)

We are the energy safety regulator for gas, electricity and pipelines in Victoria. We investigate electrical incidents and fatalities. Since 2015, we have investigated the deaths of 3 apprentice electricians.

Apprentice electricians need and deserve safe supervision.

This page outlines our requirements for effective supervision of apprentices as per the Electricity Safety (General) Regulations 2019 (penalties apply for non-compliance). The information and guidance on this page is critical for employers and supervisors.

The information on this page does not replace or limit employers’ duties under the Occupation Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act).

ESV’s expectations of effective supervision of employees

An effective workplace supervisor:

  • provides a safe and supportive workplace
  • trains the apprentice in safe work practices
  • provides technical and practical training
  • provides the apprentice with regular feedback on their work.

Responsibilities

Employer responsibilities

Employers must provide:

  • quality training
  • safe working conditions
  • direct, general and broad supervision.

Employers are responsible for apprentices – no matter who supervises them.

Employers must follow the requirements of AS/NZS 4836 – Safe working on or near low-voltage electrical installations and equipment (the standard).

The standard:

  • outlines principles and procedures of safe work, organisation and performance
  • provides a minimum set of procedures, safety requirements and recommendations
  • establishes management of hazards including arc blast, arc flash, shock and electrocution.

Follow the standard to work safely with low-voltage electrical installations and equipment.

Supervisor responsibilities

Supervisors should:

  • be competent
  • hold a Victorian A Grade electrician’s licence if the apprentice is an apprentice electrician
  • be qualified to supervise the apprentice type, when supervising other electrical apprentices.

Supervisors are responsible for providing effective supervision to apprentices.

Effective supervisors are:

  • present at the site of the electrical work, ensuring work is being carried out safely and correctly
  • aware of the details related to the electrical work being performed
  • active in their instruction and direction to the apprentice
  • the responsible person for the compliance of the electrical work.

Supervisors are responsible for:

  • the assessment of safe working environments for apprentices
  • deciding what level of supervision applies at various stages of apprenticeship
  • ensuring apprentices have opportunities to learn and practice on-the-job skills
  • isolating, testing and commissioning circuits and equipment
  • training, mentoring and monitoring progress on a daily basis.

Levels of supervision

Apprentices need varying levels of supervision as they gain skills and confidence. Supervision falls into three categories: direct, general and broad.

Apprentices begin learning a particular skill under direct supervision. After achieving competence, they move
to general supervision for that skill.

Competence relates to individual skills. Supervision must be appropriate to the level of competence for any specific skill.

The apprentice should have a say in the decision to move from one level of supervision to another. They should feel comfortable voicing their uncertainty – without fear of consequences.

Type of work Apprentice training stages Minimum level of supervision
  • New electrical installations (not connected to supply)
  • Cable tray installation
  • Rough in light and power

First

Second

Third

Fourth or final

Direct

Direct/General

General/Broad

Broad

  • Gas maintenance alterations and additions to existing electrical installations
  • Sub-mains and main installation

First

Second

Third

Fourth or final

Direct

Direct/General

General

Broad

  • Workshop assembly and maintenance of electrical equipment

First

Second

Third

Fourth or final

Direct

Direct/General

General/Broad

Broad

  • Distribution and main switchboard installation

First

Second

Third

Fourth or final

Direct

Direct

Direct / General

General / Broad

  • Electrical isolation of installation and equipment

First

Second

Third

Fourth or final

Direct

Direct

Direct

Direct

  • Testing

First

Second

Third

Fourth or final

Direct

Direct

Direct

Direct

  • Fault finding

Third

Fourth or final

Direct

Direct

  • Live work

Work on or near any live/energised electrical installation or equipment is not permitted   

Testing to confirm isolation and fault-finding are exceptions and must be under direct supervision. Refer to above section and AS/NZS 4836

 

 

Conditions for carrying out isolation procedures

Supervisors are always responsible for:

  • carrying out procedures for isolation
  • confirmation of isolation
  • compliance testing
  • commissioning
  • energisation.

Apprentices should have opportunities to carry out these tasks in the final stages of apprenticeship – but only under direct supervision and the following conditions:

  • A third stage apprentice may carry out basic (not live) fault finding under direct supervision.
  • A fourth stage apprentice may carry out basic (not live) fault finding under general supervision, if they’re been deemed competent to do so.
  • A fourth stage apprentice may carry out advanced fault finding under direct supervision.
  • A fourth stage apprentice may carry out confirmation of isolation under direct supervision.

Ratio of supervisors to apprentices

Employers must ensure the following ratio of supervisors to apprentices is observed:

  • One supervisor can supervise no more than two apprentices under direct supervision.
  • One supervisor can supervise no more than four apprentices under general supervision.

Level of guidance

As apprentices gain and show competency, the level of guidance should progress – transitioning from direct supervision to general instruction to broad direction. The level of competency directly relates to the type of work.

Example

James is a fourth stage apprentice who generally works on domestic installations. They may not be competent to work at the same level on a large industrial site. They may need direct supervision on-site when introduced to unfamiliar tasks.

Apprentice competency

Criteria essential to assessing apprentice competency in a task include:

  • their awareness of safety requirements
  • whether they perform the job to an appropriate technical standard – and are able to apply skills with consistency
  • their understanding of workplace policies and procedures
  • how they deal with everyday problems that may occur
  • their understanding of why a task is performed in a certain way or sequence.

Occupation Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act)

The OHS Act places a duty on employers to supervise their employees – so far as is necessary to enable them to do their work in a way that is safe and without risks to their health.

Information from WorkSafe

Supervising young workers

Safety supervision

Relevant legislation

Electricity Safety Act 1998

No. 25 of 1998

Section 39         Apprentices deemed to be licensed

An apprentice within the meaning of the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 in a trade that involves carrying out electrical work is, during the period of the apprenticeship, deemed to be licensed as an electrical worker to carry out electrical work under supervision as prescribed.

Electricity Safety (Registration and Licensing) Regulations 2020

S.R. No. 136/2020

4 Definitions

effective supervision, in relation to electrical work, means—

  1. being present at the site of the electrical work to the extent necessary to ensure that the work is being correctly performed and carried out in accordance with the Act and any of the regulations relating to the work and the operation of electrical installations and supply networks; and
  2. being aware of the details of the electrical work being performed and giving detailed instructions and directions with respect to the electrical work.

38 Apprentices

For the purposes of section 39 of the Act, an apprentice is required to carry out all electrical installation work under the effective supervision of—

  1. a licensed electrician; or
  2. in the case of electrical switchgear fitting work—
    • a licensed electrician; or
    • a licensed electrical switchgear worker.
  3. in the case of electrical linework –
    • a licensed lineworker that is licensed to carry out the class of electrical linework they are supervising.

Electricity Safety (General) Regulations  2019

S.R. No. 113/2019

507 Supervision of apprentices carrying out electrical installation work

  1. A person who employs an apprentice must ensure that any electrical installation work carried out by the apprentice is carried out under effective supervision in accordance with the Apprentice Supervision Requirements.
  2. A licensed electrician or licensed electrical switchgear worker who is supervising an apprentice carrying out electrical installation work must supervise that apprentice in accordance with the Apprentice Supervision Requirements.
  3. In this regulation, Apprentice Supervision Requirements means the Requirements for the effective supervision of apprentice electricians, as published or amended from time to time by Energy Safe Victoria.

Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004

Division 2—Main duties of employers

21 Duties of employers to employees

    1. An employer must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain for employees of the employer a working environment that is safe and without risks to health.
      Penalty: 1800 penalty units for a natural person;
      9000 penalty units for a body corporate.
    2. Without limiting subsection (1), an employer contravenes that subsection if the employer fails to do any of the following—
      • provide or maintain plant or systems of work that are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health;
      • make arrangements for ensuring, so far as is reasonably practicable, safety and the absence of risks to health in connection with the use, handling, storage or transport of plant or substances;
      • maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, each workplace under the employer’s management and control in a condition that is safe and without risks to health;
      • provide, so far as is reasonably practicable, adequate facilities for the welfare of employees at any workplace under the management and control of the employer;
      • provide such information, instruction, training or supervision to employees of the employer as is necessary to enable those persons to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.
    3. For the purposes of subsections (1) and (2)—
      • a reference to an employee includes a reference to an independent contractor engaged by an employer and any employees of the independent contractor; and
      • the duties of an employer under those subsections extend to an independent contractor engaged by the employer, and any employees of the independent contractor, in relation to matters over which the employer has control or would have control if not for any agreement purporting to limit or remove that control.
    4. An offence against sub-section (1) is an indictable offence.

References

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