Toowoomba construction business fined $75,000 over electrical incident
At a hearing in the Dalby Magistrates Court today, TJS Constructions (Qld) Pty Ltd was fined $75,000 and ordered to pay costs of almost $1,000 after a worker suffered a serious electrical shock on 25 November, 2015.
TJS Constructions pleaded guilty to failing to operate in an electrically safe manner, exposing individuals to risk of death or serious injury.
The company had been contracted to build a new house. At the request of the owners, the proposed location of the dwelling was changed. As a result, the revised position was directly beneath a 12.7kVolt Single Wire Earth Return (SWER) powerline which fed power to a nearby piggery. This re-location introduced an electrical safety risk to workers at the site.
The defendant’s supervisor inspected the site before construction began and stated that he simply did not see the SWER powerline. He was also supposed to complete a hazard identification checklist prior to construction. That didn’t occur and the defendant did not have a system to detect non-compliance with that requirement.
A self-employed roofer was subcontracted to install edge protection scaffold.
Close to completing the job, the roofer was in the process of installing the last galvanised steel hand rail when it came within 30 centimetres of the SWER powerline. This resulted in an arc flash that energised the metallic rail. The roofer received severe burns and other significant injuries from the high-voltage current flowing through his body.
Both the roof battens and the edge protection rails were within the three metre exclusion zone prescribed by the Electrical Safety Regulation 2013.
Following the incident, the SWER powerline was re-routed by Ergon Energy at a cost to the property owner of $20,000.
The court heard the defendant could have complied with its electrical safety duty by:
- ensuring that no person or conductive objects came within the exclusion zone
- identifying the presence of the SWER through the performance of an adequate risk assessment of the worksite
- identifying the presence of the SWER through the preparation of a safe work method statement
- arranging with Ergon for the powerline to be de-energised and isolated during the period of construction to eliminate the risk to workers, however this would have ultimately proved unsatisfactory, as the structure itself remained within the exclusion zone
- advising the property owner that the SWER would need to be re-routed in order to construct the house in the intended location.
In sentencing, Magistrate Robert Davies took into account the defendant had been negligent in the extreme, and as a result, a worker suffered significant injuries.
However, His Honour noted it was a first offence for TJS Constructions, who entered an early plea of guilty and afforded reasonable co-operation with the investigation. The company directors also demonstrated a high degree of remorse through post incident measures taken to ensure safety in the future. No conviction was recorded.
For more information on work health and safety prosecutions, visit www.worksafe.qld.gov.au or call 1300 362 128.
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- Last updated
- 06 November 2017