Electrical safety risks in ceiling spaces

The purpose of this Safety Alert is to highlight the potential electrical safety risks when entering and working in a ceiling spaces of commercial and residential buildings.


A worker running fibre optic cable in a ceiling space received an electric shock after making contact with damaged electrical wiring.

The worker had lost the battery from his torch and was trying to find it in the dark when his hand touched a section of electrical wiring which had been damaged by rodents.

The worker was extracted from the ceiling space and taken for medical observation. He was later cleared of any medical effects resulting from the shock.

Contributing factors

  • Power was not switched off at the switchboard.
  • Electrical wiring in the ceiling space had been damaged by rodents.

Action required

  • Before entering a ceiling space, switch off all power at the switchboard and take steps to prevent the power from being switched back on until the ceiling space has been vacated.
  • Conduct a risk assessment of the ceiling space and identify any hazards before entering to start work. Hazards could include:
    • Rodents or reptiles such as snakes
    • High temperatures
    • Sharp objects in roof trusses and ceiling joists, such as protruding screws and nails
    • Location of water pipes and electrical wiring, including wiring from solar panels.

      Note: Electrical wiring supplying the switchboard are live unless the property has been disconnected. Supply cables from the solar panels to the inverter unit will be live when the solar panels are generating electricity.

  • Don’t work alone, let someone who is onsite and contactable, know that you are entering the ceiling space and how long you will be.

Further information


This Safety Alert contains safety information following inquires made by NT WorkSafe about an incident or unsafe practice. The information contained in this Alert does not necessarily include the outcome of NT WorkSafe’s action with respect to an incident. NT WorkSafe does not warrant the information in this Alert is complete or up-to-date and does not accept any liability for the information in this report or as to its use.