A subcontractor and the director of the principle contractor of a South Sydney construction site have been fined a total of $65,000 in the NSW Industrial Court after a subcontractor received burns following an electric shock.
The prosecution follows an incident in November 2007 where a 35-year-old sole trader received a severe electric shock from overhead powerlines and sustained burns to 35 per cent of his body.
The court heard the sole trader, contracted to provide cement-rendering services, was working from the top level of scaffolding preparing to install an aluminium straight edge onto the corner of a building when it struck 33,000 volt overhead powerlines that were close by.
Justice Kavanagh noted that the risk involved in this incident was foreseeable and that both defendants failed to ensure there was a safe system of work in place and did not ensure that the scaffolding was erected a safe distance from powerlines.
The defendants also failed to ensure that an adequate risk assessment was undertaken and did not provide signage or instruction and training for the contractor with regard to the presence of overhead powerlines.
Neatrule Cement Rendering, the subcontractor that engaged the sole trader was fined $50,000 while the director of the principle contractor and owner of the site, Jacaranda Property Developments, was fined $15,000.
Working near overhead powerlines is extremely dangerous as contact with live powerlines is a significant risk that can cause serious burns or electrocution, said general manager of WorkCover's work health and safety division, John Watson
"Contact with voltage from overhead powerlines is one of the largest single causes of fatalities associated with mobile plant and equipment," Watson said.
"The incident serves as unfortunate reminder of the importance of undertaking adequate risk assessments and following relevant safety codes. It's important to note that there does not need to be direct contact with a high voltage overhead power line to receive a fatal electric shock."
Watson said all employers including those with subcontracting arrangements have obligations to ensure their workers are safe.
"Workers and contractors should also follow their employer's safety policies," he said.
"A safe work method plan and risk assessment can avert a tragedy. It is important for everyone to ensure they do not become complacent about workplace safety."