Safety breach leads to electric shocks

Monday, 12 February, 2024

Safety breach leads to electric shocks

In August 2022, an electrical line worker and a second-year apprentice line worker travelled to Gorge Rock — around 250 km east of Perth — to repair a fire-damaged network power pole for Western Power.

Prior to beginning work, the line worker, Darren Scott Hardy, had completed safety paperwork, including certification that protective earths were fitted to the power poles. These earths protect line workers against contact with live electricity if the installation becomes unexpectedly energised.

A court heard that the apprentice climbed a ladder and reported he had received an electric shock while removing wires from the damaged pole. He then adjusted the ladder and returned to work, but sustained another electric shock — this time falling unconscious with burns on his hands and knees.

Hardy drove the apprentice to Kondinin Hospital and from there the injured worker was airlifted to Royal Perth Hospital. He later required several skin grafts.

A Western Power investigation found Hardy did not follow mandatory work practices outlined in the network operator’s safety rules. Despite Hardy’s certification, earths had not been fitted to the power poles. The apprentice was not wearing adequate protective clothing and a required test was not carried out to ensure the site was de-energised.

At Narrogin Magistrates Court on 23 January 2024, Hardy pleaded guilty to breaching WA’s electricity network safety laws following prosecution by the safety regulator Building and Energy.

Hardy had contravened the Electricity (Network Safety) Regulations 2015 by failing to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that a prescribed activity carried on a network was carried out safely. In addition to a $10,500 fine, Hardy was ordered to pay $439.24 in costs.

Magistrate Erin O’Donnell acknowledged Hardy’s guilty plea, remorse and lack of other workplace incidents, noting he was no longer working at Western Power. Nevertheless, she emphasised the need for general deterrence, because “shortcuts cannot be taken when it comes to avoiding electric shock” due to the serious outcomes.

WA’s Director of Energy Safety, Saj Abdoolakhan, said the apprentice was incredibly fortunate to have avoided a more serious or even fatal injury. “There is no place for complacency when the stakes are so high,” he said.

“It is unacceptable to sign off documentation without completing the corresponding tasks, especially when supervising an apprentice. In this case, straightforward checks would have highlighted the danger before anyone was placed at risk.”

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