Lessons learned from tragic workplace death

Energy Networks, critical works

SafeWork NSW convicted and fined Essential Energy $300,000 as a result of the death of a worker at Bulahdelah in September 2013.

A 47-year-old man was electrocuted while holding an electrical conductor, which came into contact with or close to energised overhead conductors while it was being lowered to the ground.

SafeWork NSW found that Essential Energy was aware of the risk of keeping the top conductors energised while workers removed the bottom conductors, but chose to keep them energised for service delivery reasons.

Essential Energy was charged under section 32(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW) for failing to comply with its duty under section 19(1) to ensure the health and safety of workers.

Executive Director of SafeWork NSW, Peter Dunphy said the incident could have been easily prevented.

“SafeWork NSW’s investigation found that if Essential Energy had ensured the top conductors were de-energized and the power was turned off at the feeder no power could have come onto the worksite and the incident could have been prevented,” Mr Dunphy said.

“While Essential Energy has statutory obligations regarding service delivery and customer service considerations, the restringing, re-tensioning or removal of conductors should have been prohibited where conductors were strung continuously above, below or adjacent to other energised high voltage conductors.

The Court noted that Essential Energy had taken a number of actions to address safety since the incident, including issuing a safety alert prohibiting the practice that led to the incident the day after it occurred. This remains in place and has been adopted by other NSW electricity distributors.

Essential Energy also formed a Safety Review Working Group, installed defibrillators at 178 worksites across the State and provided financial assistance to the worker’s family and local community.