Quarry fined $35,000 after excavator hits powerlines

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Wednesday, 30 September, 2020 - 12:00
Incidents & prosecutions

A quarry near Geelong Victoria has been convicted and fined $35,000 after a worker had a lucky escape when the excavator he was driving made contact with high voltage powerlines.

Barro Group Pty Ltd was sentenced in Geelong Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to failing to ensure that the workplace and the means of entering and leaving it were safe.

The court heard that the excavator made contact with powerlines at the Maude quarry in October 2018 when the worker was blinded by the sun as he drove the machine from a dam with its boom up.

Two of the lines fell to the ground and power supply was cut to the quarry. No one was injured.

WorkSafe inspectors found there were no protective barriers or warning devices preventing moving machinery coming into contact with overhead powerlines.

The day following the incident, the company installed hazard signage and bund walls to prevent machinery from touching the lines. It later installed permanent height restriction structures at both ends of the powerlines.

Employers must ensure that workers’ lives were not put at risk when working near powerlines, said WorkSafe Victoria executive director of health and safety Julie Nielsen.

“This could have easily ended in tragedy. Powerlines are not always easy to see and it’s up to employers to do everything they can to reduce the risks they pose,” Nielsen said.

“If there had been adequate height restriction structures and warning signage in place then this frightening incident could have been avoided.”