Yet Another Electrical Incident Prompts $65,000 Fine

It seems as if not a week goes by when we do not hear of an electrical safety incident on a construction site somewhere in Oz and yet another has resulted in a $65,000 fine for Thiess Services.

The construction and services contracting company had to pay fines and costs following an incident in which an assembled street light came too close to high voltage power lines near a service station. The company involved, pleaded guilty to 2 charges of failing to provide a safe workplace for their workers.

Read exactly what happened below with a post taken from the government website www.commerce.wa.gov.au:

In February 2009, Thiess was contracted by Western Power to install two new street lights at the corner of Abernathy Road and Kewdale Road in Kewdale for Main Roads Western Australia.  The installation work commenced in May.

 

In pleading guilty to the charges, Thiess acknowledged that it did not perform proper pre-job onsite inspection, obtain a vicinity authority permit from Western Power, contact the appropriate Western Power personnel, comply with a direction to test the line before commencing work or comply with safe working distances.

 

The operator of the crane that was hoisting the assembled street light into place believed the power line was not in service.  During the course of the work, the street light swung close to the live power line.

 

A flashover occurred, and the electricity travelled through the metal street light and the unearthed crane before entering the earth, blowing out one of the crane’s tyres.

 

The high-voltage electricity travelled through the ground over the vicinity of a 4500-litre gas storage cylinder, damaging pipework and igniting surface scrub and debris around the storage cylinder.

 

It also made contact with an underground water pipe, which resulted in flashing over at the fuel dispenser area of a nearby Shell service station.

 

Source: http://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/Corporate/Media/statements/2013/02/Company_fined_over_electricity.html

Even though the incident did not result in any injuries there was so much room for it. Incidents of this nature should not be taken lightly. The high potential for injury or death from electrocution or explosion should not be underestimated.

The incident resulted in evacuation of the area and police cordoned off a one square kilometre area until the site was declared safe.

WorkSafe has warned that this incident should serve as a reminder to other companies about the importance of safe work systems at all times.

The company involved apparently suffered with extremely bad communication between supervisors and workers which showed in the safety breaches. A number of mischecks and misunderstandings resulted in the workers unknowingly working near a high-voltage, active power line. They were unaware that they needed to maintain a 3m clearance distance at all times from the power lines.

Thankfully no one was injured or killed in the incident but the outcome could have been much more severe.  Working in the vicinity of power lines is an extremely hazardous activity and it is vital that every possible measure is taken to ensure it is undertaken safely. It is especially important that everyone involved in such a task be aware of the dangers as well as safe work practices.