Coroner rules on electrocuted apprentice electrician

An apprentice electrician who was electrocuted while working unsupervised just days before his 20th birthday did not take it upon himself to do work he wasn't qualified for, a coroner has ruled.

Ali El-Sayed was in his third year of an electrical apprenticeship - started under his uncle and continued with his cousin - when he was killed while installing an air-conditioning unit by himself in January 2019.

At that point in his training he was not allowed to undertake electrical work including wiring connections unless supervised by an A-grade electrician.

Coroner John Olle was called in to investigate after questions arose about whether the teen, who was six days away from his birthday, had acted without supervision of his own accord, or whether he had been directed to do the work.

Mr El-Sayed was found dead on a flat roof on December 15, 2019 without his shirt, lying flat on his stomach near a condenser unit and power junction box.

A stripped red wire was hanging from the box.

He was not wearing gloves and a multimeter for measuring electrical current was found in his car.

Fire crews discovered power supply to the air-conditioning unit’s power junctions still on when they arrived, and they isolated it before the investigation.

He had been called to a property at Fraser Rise in Melbourne's outer northern suburbs to fit a stove and range hood - both tasks he was qualified to complete alone.

After a phone call with his supervisor he told the property owner that he would connect the air-conditioning unit.

Mr Olle found that by all accounts Mr El-Sayed was a good apprentice who followed guidance and supervision, and that on the day of his death he had not taken it upon himself to connect the condenser, but rather had been directed or believed he had been directed by a supervisor to do so.

He also found that had Mr El-Sayed been adequately trained in basic safety principles - including never working on live switchboards and to always disconnect electricity supply before starting work - those principles would have been enshrined in his basic work practice.

“His failure to take a standard precautionary measure indicates a lack of training,” he said.

He also found that a practice had developed where a staff member at his non-electrician cousin’s company was directing an apprentice to do electrical work meant there was a real risk Mr El-Sayed would do that work without supervision.

At the time of Mr El-Sayed’s death apprentices bore the responsibility of ensuring they were effectively supervised - a move designed to discourage them from performing unlicensed work on the side for cash.

“The regime did not address the risk of employers or supervisors tasking apprentices with electrical work they were insufficiently trained or experienced to do without proper supervision,” the coroner said.

Legislation changed in December 2019 placing the obligation onto employers to ensure apprentices were effectively supervised.

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