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Agriculture farm fined $200,000 for powerline death

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A North Queensland agriculture farm has been fined $200,000 in the Cairns Magistrate Court for the electrocution of an overseas worker in 2016.

The 457 Visa worker aged in his 20s was operating a cherry-picker to trim avocado trees when he died after the pruning tool he was using came too close to the 22,000 volt lines.

Magistrate Kevin Priestly delivered the findings on Friday, making mention of the fact that workers had been given verbal reminders about the powerlines prior to the incident, but this was deemed inadequate, and more suitable safety measures should have been in place.

Magistrate Priestly said there were simple steps which should have been taken to prevent the death, given the potentially catastrophic risks. These steps could have included planting the trees well away from the three-metre powerline exclusion zone.

The defendant was fined $200,000 plus $1596.15 in costs, with no conviction recorded. During sentencing, the company’s early guilty plea, its great safety record and the community’s support was taken into account.

Head of Queensland’s Electrical Safety Office, Victoria Thomson, said rural property owners must always remember where powerlines are located on their property, taking into account the length, breadth and reach of equipment which can come too close.

“It’s imperative that workers and their equipment stay well out of powerline exclusion zones – three metres in all directions from lower voltage lines, and six metres for high voltage – and they always work away and not towards powerlines,” Ms Thomson said.

“You must make sure everyone on your property knows where powerlines are, and that equipment operators and workers are suitably trained and competent to work around powerlines in a way that is electrically safe.”

The Electrical Safety Office advises that the best way to control the risk of contacting powerlines is to avoid working underneath or near them. Other controls to consider include relocating live electric lines away from work area, where feasible, or having the line de-energised while work is being done.

In some locations you can make powerlines more visible by having line markers or flags installed and using ground markers and warning signs to make your workers more aware of the risk. The use of safety observers or spotters will also help avoid plant and equipment crossing into the exclusion zone.

Further information

For more about electrical safety on rural properties, visit worksafe.qld.gov.au.

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

Last updated
03 December 2018