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January 2020

18-year-old trade assistant electrocuted

18-year-old trade assistant electrocuted

WorkSafe v JCW Electrical Pty Ltd (2015) (unreported)

Facts

An 18-year-old was electrocuted and killed on 8 February 2013 while working as a trade assistant to a licensed electrician.

The trade assistant was working in the roof space of a private residence while the electrician fed an electrical cable into it through a conduit in the lounge room of the house. The trade assistant was electrocuted when he came into contact with a copper gas pipe while holding an exposed conductor on the cable. The stripped conductor had been taped, but the tape had been loosened as it travelled up through the conduit, exposing the wires.

The electrician had relied on removing fuse wedges in the meter box to isolate and turn off parts of the power supply, rather than turning the electricity supply off at the mains.

Judgment

The Court found that the electrician failed to conclusively ensure that any circuit being worked on by himself and the trade assistant was properly isolated. The electrician pleaded guilty to failing to take reasonable care of the trade assistant, resulting in death. He was fined $6,800.

The electrical contracting business, JCW Electrical, also entered a guilty plea, for failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace, and was fined $38,000.

Lessons

This case demonstrates the possible consequences that can occur when safe work procedures are not followed. Take the following steps to avoid a similar incident occurring in your workplace:

  • complete risk assessments before commencing work;
  • use the hierarchy of control when deciding on control measures;
  • ensure there is adequate communication between workers, health and safety representatives and other relevant stakeholders; and
  • prepare safe systems of work documents in consultation with workers.
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