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NSW: Refrigeration company fined $150,000 over arc flash explosion injury

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of members. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Date: 
Tuesday, 25 May, 2021 - 12:45
Category: 
Incidents & prosecutions
Location: 
New South Wales

A company in NSW has been fined $150,000 after one of its apprentice workers suffered serious injury from an arc flash explosion at a Sydney KFC in 2017.

Ultra Refrigeration Pty Limited was investigated by SafeWork NSW and found guilty of breaching the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 in the NSW District Court.

On 25 October 2017, Ultra Refrigeration assigned two air conditioning apprentices to the job of replacing a three-phase circuit breaker at a KFC restaurant in Woodbine after the restaurant experienced a fault in its air conditioning system.

The apprentices started work on replacing a circuit breaker in the main switchboard with the power still on. One of the workers removed the faulty circuit breaker before trying to insert a new circuit breaker.

However, the new circuit breaker was the wrong size. In an attempt to fit the circuit, the worker’s steel pliers came into contact with live power causing an arc flash explosion.

The man was temporarily blinded and suffered burns to his exposed hands and all his fingers. The other worker was treated for shock.

The NSW District Court found neither of the apprentices were qualified to perform the electrical work without being supervised by a licenced electrician and that Ultra Refrigeration had failed to ensure the health and safety of its workers by assigning electrical work to the two apprentices without providing appropriate supervision.

Ultra Refrigeration was convicted and fined $150,000, while the director of the company, Romolo Prestia, was also convicted and fined $15,000 for his role in failing to ensure the company complied with its duty under the Act.

The company and Prestia have the option to appeal the decision.

“Looking after the most vulnerable in the workplace should be at the heart of any company’s safety plans,” said SafeWork NSW executive director, investigations & enforcement, better regulation division, Valerie Griswold.

“It’s so important that young workers get specific training and appropriate supervision to do their job safely.”