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Brisbane contractor fined $85,000 for not protecting workers against electric shock

By

26 May 2020

A Brisbane construction company has been fined $85,000 for failing to ensure a work site in Lutwyche was electrically safe.

A recent hearing in the Brisbane Magistrates Court revealed a concrete worker on the top level of the site used a tool which touched an overhead powerline. He received an electric shock, causing serious injuries including the amputation of five toes, burns to both hands and brain damage including memory loss.

The defendant company was the principal contractor of a multi-story mixed residential and commercial complex being constructed in Chalk Street, Lutwyche. Prior to construction in September 2015, the defendant contacted Energex to have tiger tails placed on overhead powerlines which ran along Chalk Street. In response, Energex recommended marker flags and a safety advisor be used, and subsequently arranged for the marker flags to be put in place.

On 19 May 2016, a company the defendant had engaged was pouring concrete on the top level of the building which was at a similar height to overhead powerlines. Those powerlines were approximately 3m from the scaffolding on the building. The scaffolding at that level was not enclosed or covered by mesh. The concrete worker was on the top level using a long bull float which contacted the live wires, resulting in the electric shock.

In sentencing, Magistrate Robbie Davies indicated the defendant had attempted to make the site electrically safe through an enquiry prior to construction and using marker flags. However, his Honour deemed the defendant company had not done anything further or made a risk assessment of the powerlines as construction progressed and the height of the building was at the same level as the electricity lines.

Magistrate Davies deemed the defendant had responsibility for the site and its conduct ultimately led to a risk of death and serious injury. His Honour indicated it was relevant the defendant company was aware of the high voltage powerline, including the risk it posed, but didn't implement a proper barrier. He accepted the measures could have been easily implemented and the tragic incident avoided.

His Honour acknowledged the need for general deterrence, particularly the personal responsibility of the primary contractor to ensure the health and safety of those at the site and noted the significant injuries and impact to the injured worker. He also took into consideration an early guilty plea, co-operation with the investigation, remorse, and no previous criminal history.

The construction company was fined $85,000, plus court costs of almost $1,600.

No conviction was recorded. More prosecutions are at worksafe.qld.gov.au

Ends.

Media contact: oirmedia@oir.qld.gov.au or 0478 33 22 00