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$16,000 fine after farm worker gets electric shock

A Tara farmer has been fined $16,000 over an incident in which he and a worker received electric shocks when the grain auger they were moving contacted an overhead powerline.

The farmer recently pleaded guilty in the Dalby Magistrates Court to breaching the Electrical Safety Act 2002 over the incident, investigated by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and the Electrical Safety Office.

The defendant was the owner and operator of the Tara farm. On 17 October 2017, he had been moving, with the help of a worker, a grain auger near an 11kv high-voltage energized line which crossed the property. The auger was in the raised position and contacted the overhead wire, resulting in both sustaining serious injuries from electrical shock.

The investigation found the powerline was about 7m above ground and there was no exclusion zone in place to alert people to it, nor had the defendant implemented any other control to manage the risk. There also was no safe work system in place to address the risk.

The court heard the defendant was operating the auger’s controls to drive it into position while the worker was at the other end, directing travel by a jockey wheel. The auger had been used just before the incident to transfer grain to another silo. In relocating it, the defendant did not lower the auger pipe, which contacted the power line.

Magistrate Tracey Mossop found the defendant should have provided adequate training and instruction to workers on moving the auger, given the location of the overhead line. Her Honour found installation of an exclusion zone could have been easily achieved, noting it was done post-incident, and that this control was detailed in the applicable code of practice.

Magistrate Mossop said it would have been reasonable and practicable to have a third-party observer present to act as a spotter to oversee the auger’s movements.

The farmer was fined $16,000 fine, with Magistrate Mossop taking into account an early guilty plea, positive character references, and that the defendant had no prior offending history. No conviction was recorded.

Further information

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