Residential Roofing was contracted to replace roof sheeting at a residential property and employed three workers to complete the work.
The dwelling had a skillion roof and overhead single phase electricity supply. No arrangements were made to cut power to the dwelling, despite electrical cables running on top of the roof.
Worker one and worker two were on the roof laying and screwing metal roofing sheets down, while worker three was on the ground passing the roofing sheets up. Worker one fixed a metal roofing sheet in place using a 65 millimetre steel screw, which penetrated the live conductor of the mains cable. The screw acted as an electrical bridge to the metal roof making it live (energised).
The workers did not realise the roof was energised and began climbing down the ladder. As worker two was climbing down (worker one was still on the roof) he noticed a wallet in the gutter and reached in to grab it. He made contact with the gutter and received a serious electric shock. Worker one reacted by grabbing worker two, and the ladder, in an attempt to push the ladder away from the roof. He also received an electric shock and fell to the ground. The ladder, and worker two, fell to the ground.
Worker three saw the events and ran over to the switchboard to turn the power off (this would not have ceased the electricity supply through the mains cable energising the roof).
Worker two was unconscious on the ground and not breathing when worker three went to his aid and commenced resuscitation. Worker one (who fell off the roof) was conscious and breathing and assisted with the resuscitation.
Worker two was revived and transported to Princess Alexandra Hospital. Worker one was transported to Ipswich Hospital.
Worker one sustained an electric shock but no injury. He was released from hospital following tests and observation.
Worker two had CPR administered at the incident for six minutes until Queensland Ambulance Service attended and provided defibrillation. He sustained a cardiac arrest, was intubated at site and then admitted to the intensive care unit at the Princess Alexandra Hospital for 24 hours of active cooling, a procedure in which cool fluids are intravenously administered in an attempt to protect the heart following electric shock. He fractured five ribs, suffered a serious laceration to his hand and sustained a collapsed lung.
The defendant had no prior convictions, did not cooperate fully with the investigation and did not appear at the sentence which proceeded ex parte. The defendant did fax the court information concerning its financial status, outlining it had run at a loss.
The defendant was sentenced in the Ipswich Magistrates Court on 12 January 2015 to breaching s. 30(2) and 27 of the Electrical Safety Act 2002, having failed to ensure that the defendant business was conducted in a way that was electrically safe.
Magistrate Donna MacCallum fined the defendant $50 000 and ordered professional, investigation and court costs totaling $5231.81.
In deciding penalty, Magistrate MacCallum took into account the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any electrical safety breach, the information faxed to the court in relation to the defendant company and that it entered an early plea of guilty. Magistrate MacCallum acknowledged the serious circumstances of the incident and the need for deterrence, so a conviction was recorded.
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
When working in the construction industry where there is exposure to electrical risks, duty holders should consider the age of the materials they are working with, the location of electrical wires in unfamiliar dwellings or premises, and disconnecting electricity at the site so that materials can be accessed, drilled and fixed in position without electrical concern.
- Date of offence:
- 2 x electric shock, cardiac arrest, five fractured ribs, serious laceration to hand and collapsed lung
- Ipswich Magistrates Court
- Ms Donna MacCallum
- s27 of the duty under s 30(2) Electrical Safety Act 2002
- Decision date:
- $50 000
- Maximum Penalty:
- $500 000
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: