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Prosecution Details

Offender Buckby Contracting Pty Ltd


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Charge Charge Number Offence Date Date Convicted Regulation Section Penalty Provision Penalty Imposed Date Sentenced
1 AR6394/09 10 May 2007 13th July 2009 3.64(2) 1.16(2)(b)(i) $5,000.00 13th July 2009
Description of Breach(es)

Being an employer at a workplace, failed to ensure that an employee or any plant or material used or controlled by an employee did not enter the danger zone of an overhead power line; contrary to Regulations 3.64(2) and 1.16 of the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 made under the Occuaptional Safety and Health Act 1984.

Background Details

The Accused operates a business providing for the installation of underground services such as sewerage, drainage, water and gas lines. This requires excavation and earthworks to install such services. The Accused employs an excavator operator.

In May 2007, the Accused was contracted to install sewerage and water services and perform sub-soil drainage works at Lots 173-177 Burslem Drive, Maddington ("the workplace"). This required excavation to be performed under and near 2 sets of overhead power lines. One set carried 22 000 kv and the other 132 000 kv of electricity. Recognising the risk working near power lines presented, in April 2007 the Accused had consulted with Western Power in an effort to isolate or insulate these power lines so works could be performed safely underneath them. However, given the nature of the power lines and the duration these would be required to be isolated for Western Power determined it was impracticable to isolate or insulate these power lines.

Western Power proposed alternate mechanisms to prevent plant under the Accused's control entering the danger zone of these powerlines. These measures included a visible marked barrier delineating the safe working limits under the power lines, the provision of spotters where works were required to be performed in the vicinity of the power lines and the use of small or smaller equipment that was likely to enter the danger zone to perform any excavation works under or near these power lines.

On 10 May 2007 the excavator operator arrived at the workplace and began performing excavation and clearing works along the intended trench line for these services near the power lines using a Caterpillar 330DL Hydraulic excavator, registration number 1CIK348. In the course of performing this work the excavator operator slewed the excavator around causing the boom to make contact with the 22 000 kv power lines. The power lines gave a loud crackle, emitted a burst of light and left scorch marks on the excavator boom. No-one was injured although this contact caused a surrounding area to be blacked out.

The excavator operator reported the incident to his supervisors. After checking the area and that there was no damage to the excavator or any immediate danger of electrocution the excavator operator was instructed to resume works. Western Power and WorkSafe later attended and the excavator operator was directed to relocate the excavator.

Measurements taken by WorkSafe and Western Power indicate that, in addition to making actual contact with the power lines, in performing the works the excavator operator had placed the boom of the excavator in the danger zone of the power lines. The relevant danger zone for the 22 000 kv power lines was within 3 metres of the overhead power lines. The measurements taken indicate that even at the excavator's lowest working height the excavator operator must have placed the excavator's boom within the danger zone.

None of the measures agreed with Western Power to safeguard against intruding into the danger zone of these overhead power lines were in place at the time of this incident.

Outcome Summary

Plead Guilty

Court Magistrates Court of Western Australia - Perth
Costs $760.70

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