Southern Ultimate Sign Installations Pty Ltd (Southern USI) pleaded guilty at the Heidelberg Magistrates’ Court this week to one charge of failing to provide a safe system of work.
The incident happened on 9 November 2010 when the worker and his colleague were dismantling an advertising sign at Northland Shopping Centre in Preston.
The court heard the worker was taking off a metal rod at the top of the sign – which had to be removed so he could install a new banner – when it hit an overhead power line, sending 22,000 volts though his body.
The worker remained in intensive care for five days and has since undergone extensive skin grafts to treat third degree burns, the court was told.
A WorkSafe investigation found the company failed to ensure employees had sufficient training when working near powerlines at this particular site.
The investigation also found the company could have installed “fixed tracking” at the site, which would have prevented the worker from being able to remove the metal rods over his shoulder, striking the power lines.
The court heard that following the incident, Southern USI undertook a range of remedial measures, including fixing the metal tracking at the site, providing training in “no go zones” areas for its employees and mandating the use of a “spotter” in all jobs.
Magistrate Anthony Parsons convicted and fined the company $50,000 and ordered it pay almost $6000 in legal costs.
WorkSafe Construction and Utilities Acting Director, Allan Beacom, hoped this case served as a reminder of the dangers associated with working near powerlines.
"Understanding “no go zones” when working near power lines is essential and strict procedures must be implemented,” he said.
“Not doing so greatly increases the risk of workers receiving an electric shock through either direct contact with the powerlines or due to arcing of the electricity.”
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