Pressure to finish jobs quickly and deliver a large pipeline of work before the summer break means this can often be a particularly hazardous time of year for solar industry workers.
Solar Victoria, Energy Safe Victoria and WorkSafe are undertaking increased site inspections and audits in December, including weekend blitzes, to ensure solar installations are being conducted in accordance with all industry and safety regulations.
The first weekend blitz held in early December resulted in WorkSafe issuing six notices in relation to falls from heights, lack of Safe Work Method Statements, safe roof access and site supervision.
Non-compliance with Solar Victoria’s mandatory safety requirement to scan the customers’ QR code before commencing work was also detected in more than a quarter of sites.
Safety is paramount in the Victorian Government’s $1.3 billion Solar Homes Program. Only accredited, approved retailers and products can be used in any Solar Homes installation, installers undertake mandatory safety training, and an independent electrical inspector signs off on the safety of all systems - the only state in Australia to require this.
More than 4,500 solar workers have undertaken the training since the program commenced in 2018.
Solar Victoria audits have shown the number of unsafe systems installed in Victoria dropped from 3.2 per cent in FY18–19 to just 0.1 per cent in FY21–22.
However, there is more work to be done. WorkSafe has prosecuted eight businesses this year following solar installation site inspections, resulting in fines and costs of more than $100,000. Any company prosecuted by WorkSafe is automatically removed from the Solar Homes Program for three years. For some this can be a knockout blow for their business.
Approved installers are required to be trained, qualified and have the right equipment to safely do their work. This includes fall protection when working at height, and adequate systems and processes for working with electricity.
The solar industry is as busy as ever, with rising energy costs prompting more Victorians to make the most of $1400 government rebates to install a solar system.
Solar Victoria data shows that applications for solar PV rebates reached their highest numbers in more than a year in mid-November, with more than 1100 applications coming in each week.
Quotes attributable to Solar Victoria CEO Stan Krpan
“As the end of year approaches, pressure to finish jobs can make this a challenging time for workers, especially with a significant pipeline of work to complete.”
“We make no apology for taking a hard line on safety and quality standards across the Solar Homes Program, to ensure the protection of both our workers and our customers.”
“Working at heights is a known risk. The Compliance Code on prevention of falls is very clear and there should be no excuses for putting your workers at risk by not having protections in place.”
Quotes attributable to Energy Safe Victoria Commission and Chairperson Marnie Williams
“This blitz is an important initiative to ensure the safety of solar installations across Victoria.”
“ESV Enforcement Officers will visit worksites with a focus on ensuring solar installers undertaking electrical work are licensed and that electrical apprentices are being properly supervised to ensure their safety.”
Quotes attributable to WorkSafe Health and Safety Executive Director Dr Narelle Beer
“Failure to take a safety-first approach when installing solar can have deadly consequences.”
“There is no excuse for failing to protect workers from the risks of falls from height or electrocution; those risks are well known and WorkSafe will not hesitate to prosecute employers who do not control them.”
Reviewed 22 December 2022