Company fined $65,000 over electricity incident

A construction and services contracting company has been fined $65,000 (plus almost $8000 in costs) over an incident in which an assembled street light came too close to high-voltage power lines near a Shell service station.

Thiess Services Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to provide a safe workplace and was fined in the Perth Magistrates Court this week.

In February 2009, Thiess was contracted by Western Power to install two new street lights at the corner of Abernathy Road and Kewdale Road in Kewdale for Main Roads Western Australia.  The installation work commenced in May.

In pleading guilty to the charges, Thiess acknowledged that it did not perform proper pre-job onsite inspection, obtain a vicinity authority permit from Western Power, contact the appropriate Western Power personnel, comply with a direction to test the line before commencing work or comply with safe working distances.

The operator of the crane that was hoisting the assembled street light into place believed the power line was not in service.  During the course of the work, the street light swung close to the live power line.

A flashover occurred, and the electricity travelled through the metal street light and the unearthed crane before entering the earth, blowing out one of the crane’s tyres.

The high-voltage electricity travelled through the ground over the vicinity of a 4500-litre gas storage cylinder, damaging pipework and igniting surface scrub and debris around the storage cylinder.

It also made contact with an underground water pipe, which resulted in flashing over at the fuel dispenser area of a nearby Shell service station.

There were no injuries, but there was a high potential for serious injury or death from electrocution or explosion.  FESA and WA Police evacuated the area and cordoned off a one square kilometre area until the site could be declared safe.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said today the case was a stark reminder of the importance of having safe systems of work in place at all times.

“In this case, the court heard that there were some serious deficiencies in communication between those supervising the job and those actually performing the work.

“A series of missed checks and misunderstandings resulted in the workers not being aware that the power line they were working near was high-voltage and active and that they needed to maintain a three-metre clearance at all times.

“It was incredibly fortunate that no-one was injured or killed as a result of this incident, and the level of the fine imposed reflects the seriousness with which the court viewed the incident.

“Working in the vicinity of power lines is extremely hazardous, and it is vital that every possible measure is taken to ensure the safety of the job, especially in ensuring that everyone on the site is fully briefed on the issues.”

Further information on working in the vicinity of power lines can be obtained by telephoning WorkSafe on 1300 307877 or on the website at www.worksafe.wa.gov.au.


Media contact: Caroline De Vaney 9327 8744 or 0408 927563 (media enquiries only)
caroline.devaney@commerce.wa.gov.au
Follow @WorkSafeWA on Twitter

WorkSafe
Media release
08 Feb 2013

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