$75K fine after serious electrical shock

Monday, 05 July, 2021

$75K fine after serious electrical shock

A Queensland roofing company has been fined $75,000 after a worker received a serious electrical shock from overhead powerlines. WorkSafe Queensland says the fine highlights the importance of working with both exclusion and clearance zones.

The company pleaded guilty in the Gatton Magistrates Court to breaching the Electrical Safety Act 2002 by failing to comply with its duty under section 30 to ensure its business was electrically safe.

The court heard the business was installing an edge protection system on the roof of a Gatton farm shed when a worker was handed a 6.5 m steel rail, which came into contact with or within close proximity to the nearby 11 kV uninsulated powerline. The worker received severe burns to his left hand and wounds to both of his feet, and was hospitalised for six weeks.

The injured worker had been employed for four years but had not received training on managing electrical safety risks, beyond a general direction to stay some metres away from powerlines.

The Head of Queensland’s Electrical Safety Office, Donna Heelan, said that before work starts on a structure you should consider whether the structure will come within clearance requirements of an electric line. If so, before work starts the person to perform the work must contact Ergon Energy, Energex, Essential Energy or Powerlink.

“And remember, exclusion zones are different to clearance requirements,” Heelan said.

“Exclusion zones apply while work is carried out, such as operating machinery, using a crane to lift building material or a worker installing roofing, while clearance requirements apply to the structure being built and ensuring the correct distance between the structure and electric line.

“While you are planning and before you start work, you must confirm the work will not breach minimum clearance distances from nearby overhead and underground powerlines.”

Heelan said that if an electricity entity has to relocate electric lines due to a clearance breach caused by construction work, it was entitled to recover costs from the business, property owner or occupier who caused the breach.

She said it should not be assumed that local council approval was sufficient to begin work. Council may not check whether or not the work will comply with the statutory clearance requirements from nearby overhead powerlines.

“Specifically, if work is done near powerlines then businesses must develop a safe system of work, keep workers and contractors informed about electrical safety, and avoid going into the zones,” she said.

“Overhead and underground powerlines can be identified by consulting maps or talking to the property owner and electrical entity.

“Downloading the Look up and Live App from Ergon is also a good start to help identify the location of powerlines. But the most effective way of controlling the risk is to conduct a site-specific risk assessment and de-energise the line for the duration of work.

“Electricity entities could also be asked for permission to paint power poles or make arrangements to have them install markers or flags on the powerlines,” Heelan said.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/sas

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