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Court upholds conviction for workplace electric shock


15 December 2020

A Townsville based outdoor advertising company has had its appeal against conviction over a worker who suffered an electric shock dismissed in the Brisbane District Court.

The company had appealed the finding of the Mackay Magistrates Court last year over a 2016 incident in which a worker suffered an electric shock.

The worker was changing a billboard canvas when the aluminium sail track he was holding touched or came into close contact with an overhead powerline. He was thrown more than 5m to the ground and suffered serious fractures and burns, as well as a punctured lung.

The defendant had pleaded not guilty at the time to breaching the Electrical Safety Act 2002, having failed to comply with its primary safety duty, exposing an individual to a risk of death or serious injury or illness.

The court had heard the defendant had the capacity to eliminate the electrical risk by one of six alternative means, including arranging for Ergon Energy to move the power lines to maintain the relevant exclusion zone for the billboard workers. A $250,000 fine and costs of nearly $7,500 were ordered against the company.

The defendant appealed against the conviction on 21 grounds, including that the magistrate made a number of findings of fact which were not supported by the evidence, failed to apply the correct standard of proof, and failed to apply criminal negligence principles which were argued to be applicable.

The appeal was heard before Judge Ian Dearden in the Brisbane District Court on 26 May this year. After reserving his decision, Judge Dearden last week delivered his judgment, determining to dismiss the appeal. His Honour considered each of the 21 grounds of appeal advanced by the appellant at the hearing, finding they had failed to make out any of those grounds.

Accordingly, the fine and costs order imposed originally by the Mackay Magistrates Court are unchanged.

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