Construction company fined $75,000 after worker suffers serious electrical shock

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A construction company in Toowoomba has been fined $75,000 and ordered to pay costs of almost $1,000 after a worker suffered a serious electrical shock on 25 November 2015.

The company pleaded guilty to failing to operate in an electrically safe manner, exposing people to the risk of death or serious injury.

The owners of a housing construction site the company had been contracted to build requested some changes to the location of the dwelling. Because of this, the revised position was directly beneath a 12.7 kVolt Single Wire Earth Return (SWER) powerline which fed power to a nearby piggery.

The company’s supervisor inspected the site before construction began and claimed he did not see the SWER powerline. He was also supposed to complete a hazard identification checklist prior to construction, but that didn’t occur and the company did not have a system to detect non-compliance with that requirement.

A roofer was installing galvanised steel handrail when it came within 30 centimetres of the SWER powerline.  This resulted in an arc flash that energised the metallic rail. The worker received severe burns and other significant injuries from the high-voltage current flowing through his body.

Following the incident, the SWER powerline was rerouted by Ergon Energy.

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.

He, however, noted that it was a first offence for the company, who entered an early guilty plea and cooperated 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.

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