The defendant company held duties under s. 30 of the Electrical Safety Act 2002 being a person conducting a business or undertaking as an electrical contractor. The business is a family owned entity whose focus is new commercial, industrial and residential installations.
On 23 January 2015 three electricians employed by the defendant were working on an electrical fit out for a new tenant of factory premises. One worker used a screwdriver to remove a circuit breaker from a switchboard when an arc flash occurred, causing the switchboard to explode. The worker sustained third degree burns to his left arm and superficial burns to his neck and face and was hospitalised.
The explosion was caused by the screwdriver making contact with the live 240 volt AC chassis and the earthed metal mounting of the switchboard. The worker was 'working live' at the time and reported that he felt confident doing so.
The defendant had a policy in place which prohibited the performance of “live work”, but acknowledged:
- Its failure to have in place a procedure for de-energising and locking out live circuits as required by the Electrical Safety Regulation 2013 and the Electrical safety code of practice 2013 – Managing electrical risks at the workplace;
- Failing to provide adequate training and instruction on its policies to the worker, and failing to monitor compliance with such policy.
The defendant pleaded guilty in the Southport Magistrates Court on 15 November 2016 to breaching s. 40C of the Electrical Safety Act 2002, having failed to meet its electrical safety duties and was sentenced.
Magistrate Jacqueline Payne fined the defendant $30,000 and ordered professional and court costs totaling $961.40. No conviction was recorded.
In reaching a decision, the Magistrate acknowledged that:
- the injured worker was a licensed electrician;
- his training should have made him abundantly aware of the risk;
- the task he was instructed to perform did not include work at the switchboard;
- no impediment to isolate the electricity supply.
The Magistrate found however, that the defendant:
- should have had a de-energisation and “lock out” procedure in place to prevent a cavalier attitude by employed electricians;
- should have provided training, instruction in such procedure to workers and monitored compliance with the procedure.
In deciding penalty, Magistrate Payne took into account the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any occupational health and safety breach, co-operated with the investigation and entered a timely plea of guilty. In addition the defendant had engaged consultants to redevelop safety systems and engaged with the Master Electricians Association in an instructive role for other electrical contractors.
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
When working in the electricity industry where there is exposure to risks of electrocution and electric shock from burns from shocks, electrical explosions and electrical fires, 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 burns or electric shock, obligation holders should consider:
- Electrical Safety Act 2002
- Electrical Safety Regulation 2013
- Electrical safety code of practice 2021 – Managing electrical risks in the workplace (PDF, 1.25 MB)
- Electrical safety at work
- Electricity, gas, water and waste services
- Date of offence:
- 3rd degree burns
- Southport Magistrates Court
- Ms Jacqueline V Payne
- s.30 of the duty under s.40C of Electrical Safety Act 2002
- Decision date:
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: