A Brief History of the Electrical Safety of Australian Workers

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Many Australian workers take for granted the concept of being safe at work. However, this state has come about because of decades of hard work, explained pacetoday.com.au.


There was a time when employees were responsible for their own safety at work. While basic safety practices, such as the use of gloves and hard hats, have been in place since the early 20th century, electrical safety systems only became commonplace around 25 years ago.

Safety relays and presence sensing systems arrived in the late 1980s via imported European machinery.


Safety features in machine control systems were implemented in the 1990s following the AS4024 Safeguarding of Machinery standards.

In the late 1990s, there was a fair amout of hostility towards safety systems, particularly when they interrupted work. The prevailing view was that the concept of machine safety was ridiculous and unnecessary.

Frank Schrever, the managing director of Machine Safety By Design, explained that if a machine was stopped because a fault was detected, the safety system was usually blamed instead of the machine and work continued regardless.


Schrever said that a safety revolution occurred in the 2000s with the introduction of programmable logic controllers (PLC) and safe fieldbus communication systems.


More recently, OH&S laws are in more focus and industries are prioritising safety. Schrever also noted that the majority of states have the same key machine safety rules too.