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Prosecution Details

Offender Thiess Services Pty Ltd (ACN 010 725 247)


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Charge Charge Number Offence Date Date Convicted Regulation Section Penalty Provision Penalty Imposed Date Sentenced
1 PE530612 Between 16 February 2009 & 19 May 2009 6th November 2012 3A(2)(b)(i) $65,000.00 (Global) 5th February 2013
2 PE5307/12 Between 16 February 2009 & 19 May 2009 6th November 2012 3A(2)(b)(i) $65,000.00 (Global) 5th February 2013
Description of Breach(es)

Charge 1 - Being an employer failed to ensure, so far as was practicable, that the safety or health of a person, not being an employee, was not adversely affected wholly or in part as a result of any hazard that arose from or was increased by the work that was being undertaken by the accused or any employee of the accused, or system of work that was being operated by the accused; contrary to sections 21(2)(b) & 21A(3) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984.

Charge 2 - Being an employer failed, so far as was practicable to provide and maintain a working environment in which that employer's employees were not exposed to hazards; contrary to sections 19(1) & 19A(3) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984.

Background Details

This charge arises from a significant incident which occurred at the corner of Kewdale Road and Abernethy Road, Kewdale at approximately 12.20 pm on 18 May 2009. 

The incident occurred during the installation of a streetlight adjacent to the Shell Service Station.  High voltage electricity arced from a 132 kV transmission line to the streetlight whilst it was being hoisted using a "Redmond Gary" crane.

The electricity travelled through the metal streetlight and the crane before entering the earth.  As the vehicle earth was not fitted, the electricity blew out the front right hand tyre of the crane.  The high voltage electricity travelled through the ground over the vicinity of a 4,500 litre gas storage cylinder, damaged pipework and ignited surface scrub and debris around the gas storage cylinder.  It also made contact with an underground water pipe which resulted in flashing over at the fuel dispenser area of the Shell Service Station.

No injuries were sustained however there was a high potential for serious injury or death as a result of electrocution or explosion.  The high potential for serious injury or death resulted in the Fire and Emergency Services Authority and the Western Australian Police Service evacuating the area and cordoning off a one square kilometre area until the site could be declared safe.

The Accused had received a work request from Western Power to install two new streetlights at the intersection of Abernethy Road and Kewdale Road, Kewdale for Main Roads Western Australia as part of the Main Roads Western Australia High Wide Load project.

The work request:

  • - required a risk assessment to be carried out on-site prior to commencement of works; and
  • - contained a warning to comply with WorkSafe clearances during construction if working in the vicinity of overhead transmission lines.

In preparing its Master Jacket Checklist, the Accused identified the need for a Vicinity Authority.  A Vicinity Authority is Western Power's standard form that authorises work in close proximity to live electrical apparatus.  The standard form requires:

  • - identification of the work and location;
  • - identification of precautions taken and instructions to be observed;
  • - identification of the live apparatus and the limits of approach to be maintained; and
  • - sign off by the issuing authority, recipient in charge and all members of the working party.

At the time of commencement of work, no on-site risk assessment had been performed and no Vicinity Authority had been obtained.  The work crew arrived at the work site at approximately 10.30 am.  The team leader met with the crew and discussed the streetlight location.  He expressed concern about the close vicinity of the transmission line and, in the absence of a Vicinity Authority, made enquiries with the planner as to the status of the transmission line. 

The planner was not aware of the status of the transmission line.  He spoke with a Contract Manager and Graduate Engineer at Western Power.  The Contract Manager stated that the line was not in service.  Investigation after the incident revealed that phone reception was poor and that the Contract Manager was referring to another job and was not the proper person at Western Power to contact regarding the status of the transmission line.  The transmission line was in fact an active high voltage 132 kV transmission line. 

The planner communicated the status of the transmission line to the team leader and a foreman.  The planner advised them that the transmission line was a 66 kV transmission line, not in commission and earthed.  Investigation after the incident revealed that the planner had no basis for saying that the voltage of the transmission line was 66 kV other than a broad assumption he had made.  Despite the information that the transmission line of a low voltage and not in service, the team leader agreed to check the transmission line using a Modiwark tester and maintain a suitable clearance distance at all times.    

The work crew prepared a Job Safety Analysis before being informed about the status of the transmission line.  The crew identified working near transmission lines as involving the hazard of electrocution, assessed the magnitude of the hazard as Medium and identified the control measure of maintaining clearances.  The team leader signed off on the Job Safety Analysis after the information regarding the status of the transmission line was relayed to the work crew, without critically reviewing it and without recording and making the work crew aware of the identified need to check the transmission line using the Modiewark tester or maintain a suitable clearance at all times.   

The work crew constructed the streetlight under the transmission line as that was the location at which it was delivered.  There was no system in place requiring them to do this work outside of the danger zone near the transmission line.  No measurements were taken by the work crew to ensure that a safe clearance distance would be maintained.  The crane operator set up the crane where the streetlight was being constructed and did not fit the vehicle earth because he believed that the line was not in service.  A method of vertically lifting the assembled streetlight and slewing the assembled streetlight in order to plant it in the final hole location was adopted.  A safety observer, referred to in the industry as a "dogman", was needed throughout this process due to the visual obstructions caused to the crane operator by a tree.  The team leader allocated himself the role of safety observer. 

While the team leader was acting as safety observer he observed the streetlight head until it moved into the vertical position.  He took his eyes off the streetlight head because he intended to attempt to control the base of the streetlight by holding it.  Before he grabbed the base of the streetlight, the crane slewed the streetlight in a clockwise direction adjacent to the transmission line.  A flashover occurred and there was a loud crack.  The work crew recognised the transmission line was live and that they were in danger and ran for safety.  The crane operator, who was sitting in the operator's seat at the time of the flashover, abandoned the crane and escaped unharmed. 

The Accused failed to properly plan, prepare and implement the installation work.  The failure was such that the layers of protection needed to safeguard the major hazards associated with working near the high voltage electrical apparatus in the vicinity of petrochemical products were absent.  The work crew, members of the general public, police officers and emergency response personnel were exposed to a risk of serious injury or death as a result of electrocution and explosion.

Outcome Summary

The Accused entered a guilty plea on 6 November 2012 and was convicted. Penalty imposed on 5 February 2013.

Court Magistrates Court of Western Australia - Perth
Costs $7974.70 (Global)

Please note that the charges have a global fine. While a penalty is imposed on each charge it is for the global fine and not a separate amount for each charge.

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