WA: contractor fined $150,000 after flashover causes major electrical burns

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: 
Wednesday, 9 December, 2020 - 12:45
Category: 
Incidents & prosecutions
Location: 
Western Australia

The main contractor for the Forrestfield Airport Link Project has been fined $150,000 and ordered to pay $3000 in costs after a worker sustained major electrical burns when a crane made contact with or came too close to high voltage overhead power lines.

Salini Australia Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Perth Magistrates Court to failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment and, by that failure, causing serious harm to an employee.

In October 2017, a crane crew was summoned to the south site of the project to relocate and install a 10-metre-long time-lapse camera pole on top of a concrete block to monitor the construction works.

The crane crew did not regularly work at the south site and had not received an induction specific to the south site. When they moved the pole vertically, the boom of the crane either came into contact with or came within close proximity to 132,000-volt overhead power lines, causing an electrical flashover to occur.

A rigger who was standing on the ground holding the pole and tag line received a severe electric shock, sustaining severe electrical burns to 38 per cent of his body. The man has been left with permanent physical injuries and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

WorkSafe Western Australia Commissioner Darren Kavanagh said today the incident should provide a strong reminder of the importance of being aware of the location of overhead power lines.

“There was no safe system of work in place at the site that day,” Kavanagh said.

“That included a lack of attention to safe working distances from the overhead power lines.

“Salini failed to provide a safe working environment by failing to prevent a situation where the pole could come within the minimum approach distance to the power lines while the rigger was in contact with the pole and tag line.

“Soon after this incident, Salini adopted some simple procedures including erecting warning signs and visual flagging indicators, enforcing a minimum approach distance to power lines of six metres and physical relocation of the overhead power lines.

“However this was all too late for the worker who was seriously injured in this incident and who will live with the physical and mental consequences of his injuries for a long time.

“The power lines could have been relocated or isolated prior to moving the camera pole, but no measures were taken to prevent this serious incident. Any company that may conduct work near overhead power lines should learn a lesson from this case.”