Crane operator fined $15,000 over power line incident

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A crane operator and partner in a crane business has been fined $15,000 (and ordered to pay $3,577 in costs) over an incident in which he caused a dogman to suffer electrical burns when he operated the crane too close to power lines.

Bradley David Lemmon, as a partner in the firm Mobicrane WA, pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment for employees and was fined in the Perth Magistrates Court on Friday.

In April 2015, Mobicrane had been sub-contracted by Reoserv Pty Ltd, who had been contracted by Distinctive Homes WA Pty Ltd to supply and install steel reinforcement bars for the first floor of a residence under construction in Cottesloe.

Mr Lemmon was driving a Tadano Ltd mobile slewing crane and parked it on the road facing the construction site and set up the outriggers.  The steel bars were on the grass verge next to the front right outrigger of the crane.

Overhead high voltage power lines ran along the street above where the crane was positioned.  Mr Lemmon failed to identify the presence of the overhead power lines.

Mr Lemmon began operating the crane’s boom from inside the cab while the dogman stood near the left front outrigger and took hold of the lifting chains while waiting for the crane’s hook to be lowered.

He extended the boom to within the minimum approach distance of 66KV power lines and caused a flashover.

The dogman suffered electrical burns to his hands and feet and was taken to hospital by ambulance.  He was released later the same day, but had to attend several subsequent clinic appointments and could not work for a month because he could not wear work boots.

Mr Lemmon also suffered an electric shock and was taken to hospital by ambulance.  He was released soon after.

The clearance distance for overhead power lines was clearly shown in the crane cab, and Mr Lemmon was aware of the serious risks posed by overhead power lines as demonstrated by Mobicrane’s Job Safety Analysis.

Magistrate Randazzo found that Mr Lemmon’s actions showed a serious lack of care for the discharge of his responsibility for the safety of his employees, and this was at the middle to upper end of the scale of seriousness.

He found it was out of character for Mr Lemmon, but that it was a lapse in judgement that simple steps could have prevented.

It was reasonable to have expected Mr Lemmon to inspect the site in order to create a work environment in which employees were not exposed to hazards.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said the case also emphasised the importance of being aware of working in the vicinity of overhead power lines.

“Mr Lemmon failed to identify the presence of the overhead power lines.  A simple properly conducted visual site inspection should have identified those power lines and warned Mr Lemmon to remain the prescribed distance away from them to avoid a flashover.

“He failed to provide a working environment in which his employees were not exposed to hazards by allowing the boom of the crane to come within the minimum approach distance to the power lines while the dogman was standing by the crane.

“After this incident, a Leading Hand from Western Power’s High Voltage Fault Crew attended the site and measured the distance between the crane boom cable and the closest power line cable to be 1.2 metres.  The minimum approach distance for high voltage overhead power lines is six metres.

“Mr Lemmon implemented a pre-job safety checklist after this incident to ensure that such an incident doesn’t happen again, so this prosecution has at least led to a change in safety practices for this business.”

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Media Contact: Caroline De Vaney, 6251 2363 or 0408 927563 (media enquiries only)

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WorkSafe
Media release
28 Aug 2017

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