A construction company in Perth was fined $65,000 and ordered to pay costs of more than $8000 following an incident involving an assembled street light which came too close to high-voltage power lines near a Shell service station.
The company pleaded guilty in a Perth Magistrates Court for failing to provide workers with a safe workplace. The incident occurred in 2009 when the company was contracted to install 2 street lights in Kewdale in Western Australia.
Although no workers were injured, the neglect of safety could have resulted in extreme injuries or deaths and it was for this reason that the fine was so heavy.
WorkSafe WA has reminded businesses that working in the vicinity of power lines is extremely hazardous, and every possible measure must be taken to ensure safety of workers involved. Every worker on site must be informed and educated on the issues pertaining to safety.
The company admitted that it failed to perform the proper pre-work onsite inspections and failed to obtain a vicinity authority permit from Western Power. They also failed to test the line before starting work and failed to comply with safe working distances.
This is what happened according to a post by SafetyCulture.com.au:
The crane operator was hoisting the assembled street light into place believing the power line was not in service. The street light swung close to live power lines.
The high-voltage electricity travelled through the ground over the vicinity of a 4500-litre gas storage cylinder igniting the surface scrub and debris around the cylinder. It also made contact with an underground water pipe, which resulted in flashing over at a fuel dispenser area of a gas station nearby.
Although there were no injuries reported, there was high risk potential for injury, electrocution or explosion. Police and FESA evacuated the area until the site was declared safe.
WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said the case serves as a reminder of the importance of having safe systems of work 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.
For an employer construction site safety may seem costly and time consuming, but the benefits of safety training and safety strategies for employers far outweigh the costs and hassle encountered by those enforcing them. If this incident is anything to go by, companies cannot afford not to provide safe work environments because fines of this magnitude can be crippling for a business. An employer has a duty to provide a safe system of work and safe work environment for workers according to OHS laws.If a construction worker incurs a serious injury, the cost of medical bills and other expenses can be enormous, as well as the cost of fines that may be incurred if the company is found to be negligent of safety regulations such as the company involved was.