Queensland construction company TJS Constructions was fined $75,000, after a worker suffered a serious electrical shock on 25 November 2015.
The company pleaded guilty for failing to operate in an electrically safe manner, exposing individuals to risk of death or serious injury.
According to reports tabled in court, 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 company had apparently inspected the site before construction began and stated they simply did not see the SWER powerline. A hazard identification checklist prior to construction wasn’t completed and the company did not have a system to detect non-compliance with that requirement.
The court was told a self-employed roofer was subcontracted to install edge protection scaffold and was close to completing the work. The roofer was in the process of installing the last 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 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 power line 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.