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Management company fined $45,000 for misuse of substation

Date: 
Tuesday, 3 September, 2019 - 14:30
Category: 
Incidents & prosecutions
Location: 
Western Australia

A company that managed the Morley Galleria Shopping Centre in WA when two men were killed and two severely injured in an explosion in 2015 has been fined $45,000.

Vicinity Custodian Pty Ltd, as the entity in control of the workplace, was found guilty of failing to ensure safe access and egress for persons who were not its employees, and was fined in the Perth Magistrates Court.

In February 2015, high voltage switchgear filled with oil exploded in a substation at Morley Galleria Shopping Centre, killing two workers and severely burning two others.

At the time of the incident, Vicinity Custodian was the appointed manager of the centre, responsible for taking adequate steps and reasonable precautions to ensure the Galleria was a safe place for the public at large.

When firefighters entered the substation after the incident, they found a wooden bench in front an exit door, and this blocked exit door was the closest door to the switchgear that exploded.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Darren Kavanagh said the company had failed in its responsibility to keep the substation safe for anyone working in or visiting it.

“The substation in which this incident happened was effectively being used as a storeroom, containing a wooden bench and several wooden bins,” Kavanagh said.

“The use of substations to store miscellaneous items was clearly a hazard, as they are inherently dangerous environments.

“Storing items within substations has the potential to increase the fire load in the room as well as impede egress in the event of an emergency.

“The company’s operations manager, who held the key to the substation and managed access to the room, had been provided several reports from high voltage electrical contractors prior to this incident that alerted the company that substations were being used for storage.

“No actions to stop the practice had been taken.”

Although it was not alleged that Vicinity Custodian caused the deaths and injuries that resulted from the explosion, Kavanagh said the company did fail to provide safe access and egress for the workers involved.

Other companies involved in the management of such venues should take note of this case and ensure that high voltage electrical substations that contain dangerous electrical equipment are not used as storerooms, Kavanagh added.