Two firms fined over worker’s electrocution

Date: Aug 08, 2011

A development firm and one of its sub-contractors have been fined by in the NSW industrial court after a man suffered severe electrocution on a construction site.

The sole trader was hired by the Neatrule Cement Rendering company to work on a project owned by Jacaranda Property Developments in 2007.

As a cement renderer, part of his duties required the man to install aluminium straight edging on the corner of a building.

While on top of the scaffolding used as part of the process, the sole trader struck nearby overhead wires – carrying 33,000 volts – with the length of metal.

He received burns to 35 per cent of his body as the electricity arced to the piece of aluminium before earthing itself through the scaffolding.

The court fined the sub-contractor and the development firm a combined total of $65,000 after finding that they failed to undertake adequate risk assessments that could have prevented the foreseeable accident.

In her judgement, Justice Trish Kavanagh said that the two defendants did not have a safe system of work in place and did not ensure that the live powerlines were an appropriate distance from the construction scaffolding.

Both firms pleaded guilty to the charges of "failing to ensure the premises was safe and failing to ensure a person not in their employment was not exposed to risk".

Justice Kavanagh also noted that the companies were forthcoming in responding to enquiries from WorkCover NSW and that Neatrule Cement Rendering has since taken steps to improve safety protocols.

Responding to the court's finding, general manager of WorkCover's health and safety division John Watson said that it was imperative that companies undertake regular risk assessments to and follow relevant safety codes.

"All employers including those with sub-contracting arrangements have obligations to ensure their workers are safe", said Watson.

"Contact with voltage from overhead power lines is one of the largest single causes of fatalities associated with mobile plant and equipment."

On average, injured employees required between three and five weeks off work between July 2008 and June 2009. This could have a serious impact on the dependants who rely on the income of the injured worker.

An experienced compensation lawyer can help you navigate your legal options when faced with a workplace injury.

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