The following is an abridgement of an article originally published on the WorkSafe QLD website.
A Queensland-based energy supplier has been fined $300,000 for failing to ensure the safety of an overhead powerline that caused the death of a worker and injured five others.
The incident occurred in July 2021, when a group of workers were working underneath the powerline on a farm. The top of the harvester either contacted or came very close to the powerline, resulting in a fatal electric shock for one worker and electric shocks for five others who were hospitalised.
The power pole in the field was kept vertical by a number of stay wires, each of which were separately attached to the ground. There were guards at the bottom of each stay wire obscuring a portion of it.
The power pole was inspected in late September 2020, during which corrosion was noted and given a Priority 3 rating, meaning it did not require rectification within a particular time frame.
The investigation revealed that the energy supplier had failed to inspect the entire length of the stay wires, including the portions covered by the guards. As a result, one of the two stay wires became corroded to the point of breaking, allowing the power pole to shift and the powerline to drop. The powerline height over the machinery rose more than three metres when the pole was straightened after the incident.
The energy supplier pleaded guilty to a Category 2 offence for failing to ensure its works were electrically safe. The magistrate imposed a fine of $300,000, plus costs of $1,601.40, and noted the seriousness of the offending and the unbearable loss to the deceased’s family. The magistrate also acknowledged the energy supplier’s cooperation, remorse, and good corporate citizenship. The energy supplier has since amended its inspection process to require routine inspection of stay wires underneath the stay guard.
Queensland energy supplier fined $300,000 after powerline fatality by WorkSafe QLD, 1st November, 2023.