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Mango grower fined $35,000 after workers suffer electric shock

A Gilbert River mango grower has been fined $35,000 for a 2015 incident where two of his pickers suffered an electrical shock.

After pleading guilty to exposing his workers to a risk of death or serious injury under the Electrical Safety Act 2002, the defendant was sentenced in the Townsville Magistrates Court on 22 February 2018.

The court ruled that even though he used a number of subcontractors for picking and packing, he retained primary electrical safety duty for all workers on the Gilbert River Mango Plantation.

Two Chinese nationals from Hong Kong were working as pickers on the mango farm. One was standing on the platform of the mango picking aid while the other was washing mangoes. Two other workers were picking from ground level, while another drove the tractor which towed the picking aid.

The problem occurred when the working group encountered a mango tree located directly under a high voltage Single Wire Earth Return (SWER) power line carrying 19.1 kV. The workers received an electrical shock as the picking pole used by one of them contacted the SWER line. The steel fabricated picking trailer served as a shock pathway. Both workers suffered electric burns with one needing his thumb to be amputated and reconstructed with skin grafts. Both men required extensive medical treatment, including chronic pain relief associated with burns, grafts and donor sites, as well as ongoing physiotherapy for mobility and prevention of scarring.

With a proper assessment of hazards at the workplace, the defendant could have kept his workers safe by ensuring that the relevant exclusion zone from the SWER line was maintained. Alternatively, he could have engaged Ergon to either re-route the powerline away from the trees, or increase the height of the SWER line.

Further information

For further information on exclusion zones and working safely around powerlines, visit electricalsafety.qld.gov.au

Last updated
01 March 2018

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