Prosecution and $75,000 penalty for unsafe electricity connection – Electricity Networks Corporation trading as Western Power
Western Power has been fined $75,000 and told to address “systemic failures” at management level after a connection error caused three Yokine homes to become live with dangerous levels of electricity, resulting in almost $5,500 damage to electrical appliances.
The network operator was sentenced at Perth Magistrates Court on 13 May 2020 after pleading guilty to breaching WA’s electricity regulations following a prosecution commenced by Building and Energy.
The incident occurred in February 2018 after Western Power workers had replaced a power pole on Thurlow Avenue, which involved disconnecting the nearby properties’ electricity supply at a three-phase multiple master metering panel.
The court was told that while reconnecting the power, a linesman – who had not received formal training on multiple master meters – connected the line neutral cable into the wrong location, resulting in an open neutral. This meant there was no protective neutral connection at the properties, so metallic objects connected to the installation’s earthing system became live with electricity. The excessive voltage also damaged several appliances.
Magistrate Martin Flynn acknowledged Western Power’s early guilty plea, remorse and changes implemented since the incident.
However, taking other historical breaches into account, his Honour also highlighted a “systemic failure” that the network operator’s management should have addressed in areas such as training, supervision, processes and testing procedures.
WA’s electrical safety regulator, Director of Energy Safety Saj Abdoolakhan, said the penalty was appropriate for the seriousness of the breach.
“It was incredibly fortunate that only equipment was damaged in this case, as someone could have easily received a fatal electric shock from the dangerous conditions,” Mr Abdoolakhan said.
“The community rightly expects that corporations such as Western Power operate at the highest standards and are industry leaders in terms of safety, compliance and rigorous procedures. This involves personnel at all levels.
“Building and Energy will continue to monitor and take action on conduct that puts public safety at risk.”
Media contact: BEmedia@dmirs.wa.gov.au
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