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Western Power has been fined $30,000 following an error by one of its contractors, which led to a Kingsley man receiving an electric shock and nearby residents being exposed to electrical hazards.
At Perth Magistrates Court on 1 April 2022, Western Power pleaded guilty to failing to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that maintenance work on its network was carried out safely, as required by WA’s Electricity (Network Safety) Regulations 2015.
Under the regulations, Western Power (also known as the Electricity Networks Corporation) is responsible for prescribed work undertaken by its contractors on its network and must provide them with adequate instructions.
Facts presented in court by Building and Energy show that Western Power engaged an electrical contracting company to carry out streetlight maintenance in Kingsley in May 2019.
Two electrical workers from the company came across an older installation with different wiring while testing underground cables connected to the streetlights.
The electricians wrongly disconnected what they thought was a streetlight neutral cable, which in fact was a network neutral conductor providing earthing protection to four nearby houses. The disconnection caused earthed metallic objects at the properties, such as taps and appliance casings, to become live with up to 230 volts of electricity.
A man at one of the homes received an electric shock when he touched a shower tap, but fortunately he did not require medical treatment. No other injuries or property damage were reported.
In court, Western Power acknowledged it was reasonably practicable for it to have taken further steps to ensure the work was safe by providing more specific instructions about network neutral connections. This would be addressed by updating its Electrical System Safety Rules.
Magistrate Thomas Hall ordered Western Power to also pay $991.50 in costs and emphasised the seriousness of matters involving live electricity, while noting the mitigation of the corporation’s guilty plea and remorse by its acceptance that better information could have prevented the situation.
Western Australia’s Director of Energy Safety, Saj Abdoolakhan, said the incident could have put lives at risk.
“This error could have led to much more serious consequences or even a fatality,” he said.
“This case should remind Western Power, and other network operators, of their responsibilities to reasonably ensure work is carried out safely, including the provision of comprehensive training and information for workers and contractors.”
Media contact: BEmedia@dmirs.wa.gov.au