The defendant company held duties under s.30 of the Electrical Safety Act 2002 being a construction business, contracted to construct a new dwelling. It is a family business based in Toowoomba and employs on average 20 main stream staff as well as many sub-trades to specialise in residential, industrial and commercial construction and have been designing, building and renovating residential, industrial and commercial properties for more than 30 years, without incident.
The new dwelling on a rural property was situated directly beneath a 12.7 volt, Single Wire Earth Return (SWER) line which fed power to a nearby building. The installation of the edge protection scaffold was sub-contracted to a self- employed roofer. He was positioning hand rail edge protection prior to the installation of the roofing material. As he was nearing the end of this task he lifted a steel rail, which came within 30 centimetres of the SWER line. The power arced and the electrical current passed through the rail and the worker to earth.
He sustained burns to both hands, stomach and right foot and amputation of his right big toe. A heart murmur and psychological injury persisted.
On 3 November 2017, the defendant pleaded guilty in the Dalby Magistrates Court to breaching s.40 (C) of the Electrical Safety Act 2002, having failed to meet its electrical safety duty exposing the worker to a risk of death or serious injury, and was sentenced.
Magistrate Robert Davies fined the defendant $75,000 and ordered professional and court costs totaling $967.60. The court ordered that no conviction be recorded.
In reaching the decision, the Magistrate found that the defendant had been negligent to a criminal standard. His Honour noted general deterrence and denouncement of the conduct were relevant matters taken into account. The Magistrate had significant regard to the injuries sustained by the worker as well as the mental and emotional harm inflicted, as noted in a victim impact statement. He did accept though, the worker was an experienced roofer and edge protection installer and had defined responsibility for his own safety.
In deciding penalty, Magistrate Davies took into account the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety or electrical safety breach, had afforded reasonable co-operation with the investigation and entered an early plea of guilty. The directors of the defendant company have demonstrated a high degree of remorse, demonstrated through post incident measures taken to ensure safety in future.
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 risks from electrical shock from working within close proximity to overhead uninsulated high voltage electrical lines, 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 serious injury or death from electric shock, obligation holders should consider:
- Electrical Safety Act 2002
- Electrical Safety Regulation 2013
- Electrical Safety Code Of Practice 2010 - Working near overhead and underground electric lines (PDF, 0.47 MB)
- Date of offence:
- Serious burns
- Dalby Magistrates Court
- Magistrate Robert Davies
- s.40(C) of the duty under s.30 Electrical Safety Act 2002
- Decision date:
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: