EnergyAustralia to plead guilty to worker death charges

Deceased Yallourn worker Graeme Edwards (EnergyAustralia death)
Graeme Edwards

Electricity provider EnergyAustralia says it will enter a guilty plea in the Latrobe Valley Magistrates’ Court to three charges relating to the death of unit controller Graeme Edwards in November 2018.

Graeme Edwards died in November 2018 following injuries he sustained after reinstalling a high-voltage circuit breaker at Yallourn Power Station.

EnergyAustralia says it will enter a plea of guilty in the Magistrates’ Court to each of the three charges brought by WorkSafe in December 2021 in relation to breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

EnergyAustralia chief operating officer Liz Westcott said, “We have always said that Graeme performed the racking procedure as he had been trained to do. His death has had a profound impact on his family, his workmates, the community and EnergyAustralia. We cannot fully express how sorry we are.

“We’ve made numerous safety improvements at Yallourn power station since this tragedy in 2018. Every measure is aimed at ensuring that no other family goes through what the Edwards’ have experienced,” Westcott said.    

Related article: Workers hit out at Yallourn safety culture

Over the past four years, EnergyAustralia has conducted a thorough review of circuit breakers and electrical hazards, and has introduced new safety features, including updated equipment and gear.

These improvements have also been shared with other power station operators in the Latrobe Valley where arc flash hazards are present.

EnergyAustralia’s safety actions taken at Yallourn power station include:

  • Installing or upgrading electrical protection relays, including a second-layer protection system across 48 electrical boards throughout the power station, intended to increase the speed at which supply of electricity is stopped when there’s a fault detected.
  • Upgrading the design of high voltage cubicles, incorporating the installation of new blast resistant doors so that if there is an arc flash event, it can be contained within the cubicle space and protect any personnel in the vicinity.
  • Inspecting and upgrading all electrical installations to prevent any inadvertent contact with live electrical parts.
  • Upgrading the detailed risk analysis of the electrical hazards in our switch rooms.
  • Establishing new standards for personal protective gear and equipment for all our employees and contractors.
  • Introducing updated training and new process of remotely racking in circuit breakers with the help of specifically designed machinery, creating a buffer between workers and the circuit breaker cubicles.
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