A Hunter Valley heavy vehicle hire and haulage company has been fined $65,000 and ordered to pay WorkCover NSW's legal costs after two of its workers received electric shocks while unloading construction material underneath live powerlines near Taree in 2008.
On 7 August 2008 a truck driver and a crane operator from Hollingshed Hoist and Haulage were sent to Tinonee, just west of Taree, to unload housing trusses as part of a residential construction project.
The crane, including its controls, was positioned on top of the truck. The crane operator required the assistance of the truck driver to unload the trusses because the position of the sun was obstructing the operator's sight.
While unloading the trusses the crane accidentally touched the 11,000 volt overhead powerlines which were about 10 metres off the ground.
The electric shock threw the crane operator from the controls, and when the truck driver ran to the controls to stop the veering crane, he also received a shock and became stuck to the controls.
The crane operator, who had recovered sufficiently, grabbed the truck driver's shoulder to pull him free but received a second shock which again threw him to the ground.
The crane operator was finally able to pull the truck driver off the electrified controls using a crane sling as a lasso.
The truck driver sustained severe electrical burns, and suffered a heart attack, but was resuscitated on site.
The crane operator also sustained severe electrical burns to part of his left foot which subsequently required amputation.
After a WorkCover investigation Hollingshed Hoist and Haulage pleaded guilty to a breach of the NSW Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000.
The WorkCover investigation found that the company had failed to properly train its staff in relation to the minimisation of risks when working near high voltage powerlines.
Safety for workers should be the highest priority for all employers, especially for those working on construction sites, according to John Watson, general manager of WorkCover NSW's work health and safety division.
"It is very important to safely plan all work involving high risk plant including the use of safe working distances between plant and high voltage powerlines,"he said.
"Employers should be consulting with workers about how best to control specific risks on a worksite. This is especially important in the construction industry where overhead powerlines and underground utilities are well known safety risks."