Essential Energy fined $300,000 over worker death

15 September, 2016

Essential Energy has been convicted and fined $300,000 following the death of an electrical worker at Bulahdelah in September 2013.

The 47 year old man was fatally electrocuted when an electrical conductor he was holding became reenergised as it came into contact with, or in proximity to, energised overhead conductors while it was being lowered to the ground.

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

SafeWork NSW charged Essential Energy with a breach of 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," 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.

"Every worker should return home to their family at the end of the working day and this outcome demonstrates that businesses must make the safety and wellbeing of workers their number one priority."

The Court noted that Essential Energy had taken a number of actions to address safety since the incident.

On the day after the incident Essential Energy issued a safety alert prohibiting the practice that led to the incident. The prohibition remains in place today and has been adopted by other NSW electricity distributors.

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

"While I acknowledge Essential Energy's efforts since the incident, tragically a family is without a husband and a father due to something that should not have occurred."