Two businesses fined $1.05 million over workplace fatal electrocution

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, 21 September, 2022 - 12:30
Incidents & prosecutions
New South Wales

A construction company and a roofing company in NSW were recently fined $600,000 and $450,000 following a fatal electrocution incident in 2019.

On 11 February 2019, two labourers were removing steel handrails from the roof of a warehouse in Moorebank when a metal handrail contacted high voltage power lines nearby.

The 25-year-old man holding the handrail fell onto his back and his workmate ran to his aid and tried to kick the handrail out of his hands.

The 25-year-old died on the roof and the other worker suffered serious burns to his legs.

Riverwall Constructions was engaged to replace the damaged roof on which the workers were working. Riverwall oversaw the project at the site and subcontracted Perry’s Roofing Pty Ltd to replace the roof.

Riverwall Constructions received a $600,000 fine and on 15 July 2022, Perry’s Roofing received a $450,000 fine. Both were convicted in the District Court for failing to comply with their WHS duty.

Falls from heights are the leading cause of traumatic injuries and fatalities in the NSW construction industry closely followed by contact with electricity, said SafeWork NSW executive director compliance & dispute resolution, Matthew Press.

“Each year SafeWork NSW responds to many incidents where workers come into contact with to overhead power lines or are observed working too close to them,” he said.

“Businesses must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that no person, plant or thing at the workplace comes within an unsafe distance of an overhead power line. To avoid these types of incidents, consult with the electricity supply authority to have the power isolated.

“They can assess the site and advise of appropriate controls that you should adhere to. If you can’t avoid working near overhead power lines, you need to properly assess and control the risks to workers.”