The defendant held duties as a worker under s. 39 of the Electrical Safety Act 2002.
Between 4 and 6 February 2014, a team of employees from the rail freight operator (including the defendant) were required to undertake scheduled five yearly substation maintenance at a substation maintenance facility. The team comprised of:
- the defendant as Officer in Charge
- the Team Leader;
- an Engineer;
- the Switching Officer;
- two fourth year apprentice electricians; and
- a trades assistant.
A High Voltage Switching Sheet was prepared for switching operations to facilitate safe work on exposed live parts. The High Voltage Switching Sheet was written and authorised by the Engineer.It was checked and signed by the Team Leader.
On 6 February 2014, a start-of-shift briefing was provided by the Team Leader to the relevant staff at the site services electrician's workshop. The briefing did not detail the specific maintenance tasks to be performed at the substation. At the substation, switching was undertaken by the Switching Officer, in conjunction with the Engineer. The defendant was present during the switching process.
The switching had the effect of cutting the flow of voltage to cubicles B, C and D. Cubicle A and E remained live points. The only way to stop voltage flowing into cubicle A, and out of cubicle E, would be to request Energex to cut the flow of voltage to the substation. This was not done.
Following the switching, a High Voltage Access Permit was issued by the Switching Officer. The issuing of this permit was confirmed by the defendant and it was signed by all other team members. The authorised work to be carried out in the substation included removal of covers and panels on a High Voltage switchboard located in the upstairs section of the substation.
A number of team members – including the two apprentices and the trades assistant – either did not read or did not understand the contents of the access permit. Specifically, these team members did not understand that a live feed was continuing to flow into cubicle A of the switchboard.
In order for the work to be done some of the switchboard covers had to be removed. The defendant and a trades assistant were involved in unbolting and removing panels from the switchboard, including incorrectly removing the cover and protective barrier of Cubicle A which exposed energised high voltage live parts. Sometime after this, the Team Leader returned to the upstairs area of the substation where the defendant was working. After 11am, one of the apprentices also entered the upstairs area of the substation while both men were still there. There were no other persons in the work area.
The Team Leader directed the apprentice to clean the busbar located to the rear of the High Voltage Switchboard. At that time, the Team Leader was not aware that the cover for cubicle A had been removed.
At 11.14am the apprentice put her hand in the vicinity of the area to the back of the switchboard and came into contact with 11,000-volt energised equipment, which caused her to receive a serious injury.
The Team Leader immediately rendered first aid to the apprentice and in doing so sustained physical injuries.
The defendant pleaded guilty in the Ipswich Magistrates Court on 29 August 2016 to breaching s. 40C of the Electrical Safety Act 2002, having failed to meet his electrical safety duties and was sentenced.
Magistrate Virginia Sturgess fined the defendant $6000. A conviction was not recorded.
In reaching a decision, the Magistrate noted that the defendant was the officer in charge at the time of the incident and effectively in a supervisory role. He was a qualified electrician and ought to have taken greater care to ensure that the correct panels were removed. Further, the safe work principle of “test for dead before you touch” was known to the defendant and not carried out. The court accepted that there was equipment available at the time to do this, however it was not used.
In deciding penalty, the Magistrate took into account the defendant had not been previously prosecuted for any electrical safety breach, co-operated with the investigation and entered an early plea of guilty.
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
When working in the electrical industry where there is exposure to risks from electric shocks, duty holders should apply a risk management approach to ensure the selection of suitable control measures.
Risk management involves identifying the hazards, evaluating the consequences and likelihood of harm that may result from the hazard, deciding and implementing control measures to prevent or minimise the level of the risk from the hazard and monitoring the effectiveness of the control measures to ensure they remain working correctly.
When deciding and implementing control measures associated with the risk of death or serious injury, obligation holders should consider:
- Electrical Safety Act 2002
- Electrical Safety Regulation 2002
- Managing electrical risks in the workplace code of practice 2021 (PDF, 1.25 MB)
- Electrical safety Code of Practice 2010 - Works (PDF, 0.33 MB)
- Electricity, gas, water and waste services
- Date of offence:
- Burn Injuries
- Ipswich Magistrates Court
- Virginia Sturgess
- s. 40C Electrical Safety Act 2002
- Decision date:
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: