Construction company fined $24,000 for working too close to powerlines

A Preston construction company which allowed a crane to operate near high voltage powerlines without carrying out the proper pre-work safety assessment has been convicted and fined $24,000.


Imagebuild Group Pty Ltd was found guilty of two charges under the 2004 OHS Act for failing to ensure persons other than employees were not exposed to health and safety risks, and failing to ensure the means of entering the workplace were safe and without risks to health.

The company was also ordered to pay $6387 in costs.

The Melbourne Magistrates Court was told that on 27 August 2015, Imagebuild engaged a crane operator to lift a housing display suite approximately the size of a twenty-foot shipping container onto the rear of a flatbed truck in Nicholson St, Brunswick East. The 20-tonne crane was parked directly under power lines and high voltage tram wires.

The court heard that Imagebuild had no Safe Work Method Statement for the work, nor had it conducted any risk assessment to ascertain the presence, type and operating voltage of overhead cables and tram wires. It had also failed to obtain the permission of the electricity supplier or the tram company before performing the lift.

A Yarra Trams employee who saw the crane being moved into position warned the crane operator not to conduct the lift as he believed it would to be encroaching the "'no go" zone for work near live power lines, but was ignored.

The employee videoed the lift on his mobile phone and then reported the matter to WorkSafe.

WorkSafe's Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said Imagebuild had placed the crane operator's life in danger.

"Given the lack of preparation by Imagebuild before this lift took place, it is fair to say it is pure luck that the crane driver was not seriously injured or killed," Ms Williams said.

"The risk of electrocution was high if the crane or the load had come into contact with the overhead lines. And, given the incident location on a busy street, the company had also put at risk the lives of road users and pedestrians."

Ms Williams said two crane incidents the past two weeks – a mobile crane overturned on a building site in St Kilda, while a crane hit the side of an apartment building under construction in the CBD causing materials to fall to the ground - were recent incidents that highlighted the high-risk nature of crane work and that safe systems of work needed to be employed at all times.

"WorkSafe's dedicated construction teams are undertaking more site inspections than ever before. In 2016-17, these inspectors made more than 10,000 visits to construction sites across the state, and took almost 6000 compliance actions," Ms Williams said.

"Over the past three years, we have prosecuted more than 80 companies in the construction sector over their safety failings and they were fined a total of more than $5.6 million.

"Construction is a high-risk sector and the number of serious injuries and fatalities remains far too high. That is why we will continue to work with employers, unions and workers to improve safety, and to prosecute those who put their workers' lives at risk."

Working near overhead power lines

A competent person should undertake the development of a safe system of work near overhead or underground assets. Development of this system should take into consideration:

  • The type and location of infrastructure, plant and equipment to be utilised.
  • Timing and duration of the scope of work.
  • Designated loading and or unloading areas.
  • The permanent or temporary relocation of any infrastructure or assets on or near the worksite.
  • How the principal wishes to construct any building, temporary hoarding, erection of scaffolding or bracing.
  • The relationship to any affected utility service.
  • What permission is required.