On 25 May 2020, the defendant company pleaded guilty and was sentenced in the Brisbane Magistrates Court for breaching s 40C of the Electrical Safety Act 2002 (the ‘Act’), having failed to ensure that a construction site was electrically safe for workers.
The defendant was the principal contractor of a multi-story mixed residential and commercial complex being constructed in Lutwyche and held an electrical safety duty under section 30 of the Act. Prior to construction in September 2015, the defendant contacted Energex to have tiger tails placed on overhead powerlines which ran along the street. In response, Energex recommended marker flags and a safety advisor be used, and subsequently arranged for the marker flags to be put in place.
On 19 May 2016, a subcontractor engaged by the defendant was pouring concrete on the deck of the structure, which was at a similar height to overhead powerlines. The powerlines were approximately three metres from the scaffolding tied to the structure. The scaffolding at that level was not enclosed or covered by mesh. A concrete worker was on the top level of the scaffold using a long bull float. The handle of the tool held by that worker protruded through the scaffolding contacting the live wires. The worker received an electric shock and sustained serious injuries, including the amputation of five toes, burns to both hands, and brain damage, including memory loss.
In sentencing, Magistrate Robbie Davies indicated the defendant had attempted to make the site electrically safe through an enquiry to Energex prior to construction and the use of marker flags. However, he deemed the defendant had not done anything further or made a risk assessment of the powerlines as construction progressed and the height of the structure became level with the electricity lines.
Magistrate Davies indicated the defendant had ultimate responsibility for the site and it’s conduct ultimately led to a risk of death and serious injury. In assessing culpability, the Magistrate indicated it was relevant the defendant was aware of the high voltage electric lines and the risk posed but failed to implement a proper barrier to ensure no contact was made with lines and or that no implements encroached the exclusion zone around the lines. His Honour accepted the OWHSP submission that measures that would have prevented the dreadful outcome to the injured worker could have been easily implemented.
The court held there was need for general deterrence, particularly on account of the personal responsibility of the primary contractor to ensure the health and safety of those at the site. His Honour also noted the significant resulting injuries and impact to the injured worker.
In mitigation, his Honour accepted there was an early plea of guilty, cooperation, remorse, and no criminal history.
OWHSP contact: email@example.com
Sections 40C and 30, Electrical Safety Act 2002