|Offender||Vicinity Custodian Pty Ltd (ACN 077 870 243)|
|Charge||Charge Number||Offence Date||Date Convicted||Regulation||Section||Penalty Provision||Penalty Imposed||Date Sentenced|
|1||PE6057/2018||3 February 2015||7th August 2019||22(1) 22A(3)||3A(2)(b)(i)||$45,000.00||26th August 2019|
|Description of Breach(es)||
Being a person that had, to any extent, control of a workplace where persons who were not its employees worked or were likely to be in the course of their work, failed to take such measures as were practicable to ensure that the workplace was such that persons at the workplace were not exposed to hazards.
On 3 February 2015 at approximately 9:35 a.m., high voltage switchgear filled with oil located in Substation 4 at the Morley Galleria shopping centre (the Galleria) exploded. At the time of the explosion, four contractor workers were inside Substation 4 examining high voltage switchgear. Two of the workers died and two workers received serious injuries including burns from the expulsion of hot oil.
At the time of the incident, the accused was the appointed manager of the Galleria. That role involved maintaining the Galleria to the standard of other professionally managed shopping centres in Australia, and taking adequate steps and practicable precautions to ensure the Galleria was a safe place for the public at large.
Employees of the accused had keys to Substation 4 and were responsible for coordinating and organising the scheduling of maintenance of the high voltage electrical equipment at the Galleria.
At the time of the incident, the high voltage switchroom in Substation 4 contained two redundant transformers and an 11kV Long & Crawford Ring Main Unit (RMU). The RMU consisted of two Long & Crawford oil-filled combined-fuse-switch units:
a) 30.1 a T4GF3 unit; and
b) 30.2 a GF3 unit
connected together by a band joint.
Following the explosion, responding firefighters found a bench and bins stored in Substation 4.
The prosecution alleged that an increased fire danger and impeded access and egress arose from the use of this high-voltage electrical substation to store miscellaneous items.
Further, the prosecution alleged that the accused failed to take such measures as were practicable to ensure that non-employees working in Substation 4 were not exposed to this hazard, namely not using Substation 4 as a storeroom; instructing Galleria staff not to use Substation 4 to store miscellaneous items; and/or providing supervision and inspection of Substation 4 to ensure that the workplace was not being used to store miscellaneous items.
The prosecution did not allege that the accused was in any way responsible for the explosion or the workers' deaths and injuries.
THE BENCH AND BINS INSIDE THE SUBSTATION
Responding firefighters gave evidence that the bench was located in front of or adjacent to a door in Substation 4, and that multiple bins were also located inside Substation 4. Other persons who visited the substation the day before or the day of the explosion also recalled seeing the bins and bench in the substation, although their evidence varied as to the precise position of the items.
One member of the accused's maintenance staff gave evidence that he was aware there were bins (made of wood and stainless steel) and a bench (made of wood) in Substation 4, however did not identify any hazard in his inspection of the substation.
Other members of the accused's maintenance staff gave evidence that the items in Substation 4 were stored there before being disposed of. These witnesses said that they were either directed to store items in Substation 4, or received no direction not to do so.
The Court found that a bench and bins were stored in Substation 4 and Substation 4 was used as a storage facility.
The Court found that the bins were located away from the high voltage switches in the switchroom.
In relation to the bench, due to conflicting evidence, the Court found it was open on the evidence that the explosion moved the bench towards the door, orthat person/s attending Substation 4 on the day of the explosion moved it across the door when they put their work items on it.
USE OF SUBSTATIONS TO STORE MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS IS A HAZARD
Having regard to expert evidence, evidence from experienced electricians, and what the Court characterised as "plain commonsense" that a high voltage substation is a dangerous area, the Court held that a hazard arose from the use of Substation 4 as a storage room: as alleged by the prosecution, an increased risk of fire and impeded access/egress.
The Court also held that the four contractor workers were exposed to this hazard on the date of the offence. The Court emphasised that in determining whether they were exposed to the hazard, the circumstances of the particular explosion on that date should be put to one side, and the Court should consider the potential hazard in the many varied circumstances that may have arisen in the substation.
The Court's decision supports the position that electrical substations should not be used for ancillary purposes, including as storerooms, so as not to increase fire danger or inhibit the unique emergency egress situations that may occur in the event of an equipment fire or explosion.
THE ACCUSED FAILED TO TAKE PRACTICABLE MEASURES to ensure that non-employees working in Substation 4 were not exposed to the hazard
In determining whether the accused had failed to take practicable measures, the Court took into account the following factors:
a) the dangerous area the subject of the charge – in addition to the expert evidence of the possibility of dangerous events in a substation, the fact the high voltage substation was locked and had restricted access was evidence in itself that the risk of potential injury or harm was heightened;
b) the accused was aware that it was inappropriate to use the area as a storage facility, having been informed of this by previous high voltage electrical contractors by way of inspection reports; and
c) the issue could have been remedied quite easily by instructing staff not to use Substation 4 as a storage facility, storing items in another area or disposing of items appropriately.
The Court therefore held the accused had failed to take such measures as were practicable to ensure that non‑employees working in Substation 4 were not exposed to this hazard.
The Magistrate found the Accused guilty on 7 August 2019. On 26 August 2019 the Accused was sentenced and fined $45,000.
Costs agreed or otherwise taxed.
|Court||Magistrates Court of Western Australia - Perth|
|Costs||Agreed by Parties|
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