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Date PostedJune 19, 2012

White Card Update: Company Fined over Electric Shock incident

An installation company recently received a hefty fine in the wake of an electric shock incident that caused severe injury to the worker involved. Employer’s should heed this warning that construction site safety must be the top priority on all work sites, including providing the proper training to workers, which the company involved failed to do. The company also failed to provide safe work systems and a safe working environment for its workers. Labour Solutions Australia has more:

Mulgrave sign installation company has been convicted and fined $50,000 over an incident that left a worker with severe burns to his body after he suffered an electric shock.

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.”…More at $50000 fine over shock incident | Labour Solutions Australia

Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment by informing workers of the various circumstances leading to electrocution. On a construction site the most common causes of electrocution are

  • Malfunctioning equipment
  • Improper tools
  • Improperly grounded live electrical wires
  • Scaffolding and cranes near low hanging power lines
  • Exposed wires
  • Improperly installed wires
  • Insufficient safety training
  • Damp/Humid conditions
  • Generally unsafe work practices

There are a few basic safety tips that workers can remember when working with an electrical hazard to make the environment safer for them to work in.

  • Don’t wear jewellery or watches
  • Wear non-conductive footwear
  • Read all instructions, labels, installation manuals etc. before installing, operating or servicing equipment.
  • All equipment should be tested and tagged by an individual qualified to do so.
  • Any faulty equipment must be removed from  used and tagged so it can be differentiated from working equipment
  • Workers should watch for overheating in machines
  • Use tools with insulated hand grips
  • Earth equipment properly (that includes metal framework, the motor and the motor casing, legs and the frame)
  • Powercords and leads should be examined before use, tagged and removed if defective.
  • The power should always be turned off before removing a plug from the powerpoint
  • Extension cords should not be run along wet or damp ground/floors

It is important to identify electrocution hazards because the consequences can be serious and even fatal. Some of the possible injuries that can result from electrocution are burns, muscle spasms, partial limb loss, eye damage, sudden onset of cardiac arrest, respiratory problems, unconsciousness, tissue damage, internal organ damage and even death. Because the human body conducts electricity it is particularly dangerous to us. Even minor electrocution can cause unseen internal damage.

 

Steven Asnicar is regarded as a leader across many fields of industry. In particular, his specialisation across the health, infrastructure, construction, resource and utility sectors has seen him successfully change the dynamics of these industries through the introduction of new strategic, marketing, training and technical frameworks. Steven works closely with industry peak bodies such as Safework Australia, Australian Logistics Council, National Advisory for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment (NATESE) and the Council of Australian Governments in the development of new delivery standards and industry specific programs.

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