The defendant company conducted a business which included removal and erection of billboards, and had obligations under s.30 of the Electrical Safety Act 2002.
On 25 February 2012, two of the defendant's workers were removing and installing advertising skins (which form billboard advertising) from an elevated platform. An uninsulated metal pole measuring 6.5 metres was being used by one of the workers to remove the advertising skin; the worker contacted live power lines was electrocuted.
On 26 February 2016, the defendant was found guilty after trial in the Brisbane Magistrates Court to breaching s.27 of the Electrical Safety Act 2002, having failed to meet its electrical safety obligations. Magistrate John Costello fined it $125,000 and ordered costs totaling $49 934.
Despite ordering that no conviction be recorded, the Magistrate found omissions in the safe work method statements, job cards and site books recording proximity of the exclusion zone and the high voltage powerlines was an egregious error. The defendant failed to properly inform itself of the existence and relevance of the powerlines in terms of the electrical risk to which workers were exposed. The magistrate also found the method of removing poles from the ends of the skins was haphazard. Training of workers (written, practical and multi-media) together with ongoing tool box talks fell well short of meaningful or reasonably achievable controls in terms of acknowledging the electrical risk at this site.
His Honour found several controls could have ensured the electrical risk was as low as reasonably achievable. These included safe work method statements, site books and job cards having clear warnings as to the presence of powerlines and relevant exclusion zones, and due to the proximity of the powerlines:
- engage a spotter
- use explicit warning signs placed at the top of the gantry
- ensue toolbox meetings, specifically discussing all sites in proximity to powerlines, exclusion zones and conductivity of aluminium poles.
The court was satisfied the defendant did not choose an appropriate method, and did not take reasonable precautions to discharge its electrical safety obligation.
In deciding penalty, Magistrate Costello took into account the defendant had a safety system in place at the time of the incident but it had eroded, and that costly changes to the company's systems of training and overall safety systems had been undertaken post-incident. His Honour noted that risk of reoffending was low given the company had no previous breaches and had operated for an extended period.
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
When working near exposed live parts there are risks, and duty holders must assess the risks and develop a suitable management plan.
- Electricity, gas, water and waste services
- Date of offence:
- Brisbane Magistrates Court
- Mr John Costello
- s. 30 of the obligation under s.27 Electrical Safety Act 2002
- Decision date:
- Fined $125 000
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: