Western Power fined $30,000 for electric shock error

Monday, 11 April, 2022

Western Power fined $30,000 for electric shock error

Electricity Networks Corporation, trading as Western Power, has been fined $30,000 after an error by one of its contractors led to a Kingsley man receiving an electric shock and nearby residents being exposed to electrical hazards. Western Power pleaded guilty to failing to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that maintenance work on its network was carried out safely, as required by Western Australia’s Electricity (Network Safety) Regulations 2015. Under the regulations, Western Power is responsible for prescribed work undertaken by its contractors on its network and must provide them with adequate instructions.

Facts presented in court by Building and Energy revealed that Western Power engaged an electrical contracting company to carry out streetlight maintenance in Kingsley in May 2019. Two electrical workers from the company came across an older installation with different wiring while testing underground cables connected to the streetlights. The electricians wrongly disconnected what they thought was a streetlight neutral cable, which was in fact a neutral conductor providing earthing protection to four nearby houses. The disconnection caused earthed metallic objects at the properties, such as taps and appliance casings, to become live with up to 230 volts of electricity.

A man in one of the homes received an electric shock when he touched a shower tap, but did not require medical treatment. No other injuries or property damage were reported. In court, Western Power acknowledged that it was reasonably practicable for it to have taken further steps to ensure the work was safe by providing more specific instructions about network neutral connections. This was addressed by updating its Electrical System Safety Rules.

Magistrate Thomas Hall emphasised the seriousness of matters involving live electricity, while noting the mitigation of the corporation’s guilty plea and remorse by its acceptance that better information could have prevented the situation. Western Star was also ordered to pay $991.50 in costs.

Western Australia’s Director of Energy Safety, Saj Abdoolakhan, said the incident could have put lives at risk and led to much more serious consequences. “This case should remind Western Power, and other network operators, of their responsibilities to reasonably ensure work is carried out safely, including the provision of comprehensive training and information for workers and contractors,” Abdoolakhan said.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Jamie Hooper

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