Generating a legion of electrical Safety Heroes
Generating a legion of electrical Safety Heroes
As part of its mission to bring electrical safety to the fore, Ergon Energy is taking the electrical safety message directly into primary school classrooms around regional Queensland. In this article Mark Timmerman explains why you can never be too young to be a Safety Hero.
The scene in the family room of Linda’s Cairns home at 2.55pm on March 17 this year presented nothing unusual whatsoever, aside from her now screaming young son sitting against one wall holding out his hand with an obvious nasty burn around the size of a five-cent piece.
Seven-year-old Kynan had been quietly playing there while Linda unloaded groceries from the car in what was a normal mid-week ritual at home – school over for the day and preparation for the routine of meals, study and tomorrow’s necessities.
But after Kynan’s distressed sobs were tenderly and gently coaxed into an explanation from mum, confusion quickly transformed to a cold panic for Linda as she realised her son’s injury was in fact the result of an electric shock.
Tending his burnt hand was followed quickly by a careful revisit to the family room, which on closer inspection revealed the source of the problem; a front door key, (hanging from the bunch of car and house keys jangling in Kynan’s sweaty helpful hands just minutes earlier as they exited the car) was now wedged incredulously into the live end of an electrical extension cord in the corner of the room.
The enormity of the situation landed heavily for her in the fog of shock as she rang an ambulance and her husband.
Linda knew only too well how close she had come to losing her son from simple – if mischievous - childhood curiosity.* **
Seventeen other tingles or electric shocks of various kinds among children under the age of 11 were reported to Ergon Energy across regional Queensland last year. Many, like Kynan’s painful but fortunately not seriously injuring experience, should never happen.
With a structured approach to community electrical safety strategies already in place, Ergon is taking the message of electrical safety directly into the primary school classrooms of regional Queensland this year.
Under the banner of Safety Heroes, Ergon is aiming to get the basics of electrical safety to some 300,000 school children each year with a structured program of education designed to instil and reinforce common sense around electricity.
Like many safety messages, particularly in a day and age of hyper-risk avoidance on all fronts of modern life, the Safety Heroes program will look to find its favour in the minds of children via ownership of the message.
The program has already been taken on by nearly 700 regional Queensland schools and is similar to a curriculum-based electrical safety and learning program that has been used in New South Wales schools for a number of years.
Safety Heroes focusses on six key messages. Children will be taught the basics of using electrical appliances safely, electrical safety basics around the home and the dangers of water and electricity. Network safety is explained in terms of not playing near wires, what to do around fallen powerlines and the realities around electricity being able to arc or “jump”, especially from overhead powerlines.
Ergon crews sometimes find the evidence of curious interference or obvious tampering with overhead powerlines and equipment, an activity that is potentially just as deadly for an adult as it is for a child.
Year Six students at participating schools will have these lessons incorporated with science-based learning in their year’s curriculum. Other grade levels will be exposed to the Safety Heroes messages at various times as schools deem appropriate and during Electrical Safety Week in schools between September 7 – 11.
Ergon delivers safety messages to all demographics, however the primary school campaign has been targeted to this area of very real potential risk. Developmental psychology has shown that children in certain primary school age groups will experiment, test and explore all manner of things within their environment. This is the time when a child’s mind is at some of its most enquiring.
Encouraging children of all ages to take on a ‘hero’ role where they can, including being a champion of calling out unsafe behaviour or reporting potentially dangerous situations around electricity, the Safety Heroes program is designed to appeal to the psyche of the age group.
Of course, teaching children electrical safety basics is very much everyone’s responsibility. So it’s important that this sense is taught and reinforced at home.
Inside the average residential home in regional Queensland, incidents that have resulted in an electric shock or related injury are likely to have involved a switch, power point, fixed appliance (stove or washing machine for example) or other type of plug-in electrical appliance.
Accidents around fixed wiring inside a premises account for the highest single cause of electric shock, but the combination of careless indifference, ignorance or risky behaviour with electrical appliances and power points is accounting for almost as much danger.
It is important to also remember that the incidents that Ergon Energy is aware of are only the incidents reported through official channels. Anecdotal evidence would suggest the real number of shocks, tingles or close calls that go unreported is much higher.
Ergon Energy believes Safety Heroes will give children a new and exciting way of learning about electrical safety. So next time your children come home from school, perhaps find out if they are a ‘safety hero’ around electricity…or better still, be a ‘safety hero’ yourself and teach them the skills to start being one.
*While most of the physical accident details of this electric shock were gleaned from actual Ergon Energy incident reports, the names and location of the incident have been altered in line with privacy considerations.
**In any incident involving electric shock or suspected electric shock, it is important to ensure your own safety in the first instance. Never touch or attempt to assist someone receiving an electric shock. Keep well away from an area or equipment involved in an electric shock and alert emergency services and Ergon Energy as soon as possible.
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