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January 2020

Company fails to implement an adequate safe system of work to address the risk of working near powerlines

Company fails to implement an adequate safe system of work to address the risk of working near powerlines

Worksafe Victoria v Redback Tree Services Pty Ltd (2017)

Facts

Redback Tree Services (Company) is involved in tree maintenance and removal. The Company was contracted to a residential site to remove two trees that were located near a set of powerlines. Before it started to remove the trees, the Company prepared a partial Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) that identified working close to the powerlines as a risk. The SWMS did not document any measures to reduce this risk.

The powerlines were not shut down and a worker was fatally injured after the tree he was working on came into contact with the powerline.

Judgment

The Melbourne County Court found that the Company failed to implement an adequate system of work to address the risk of working near the powerlines. Although an SWMS identified the risk, the lack of any controls being implemented was reflected in the fact that the SWMS was incomplete in that regard.

The Company was fined $150,000.

Lessons

In this case, the risk of injury was significant due to the proximity of the tree removal work to the powerlines. There were methods available to reduce this risk, yet the Company failed to identify those controls and consequently did not use them. This is a reminder for companies to assess risks and then prepare adequate SWMSs to address those risks.

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