Preventable electric shock incident in NSW incurs hefty safety fines

14 April, 2016

A Granville bricklaying company and its director have been fined $90,000 after a worker almost died from electric shock on a Hammondville construction site in 2012, bringing total fines for the incident to nearly three quarters of a million dollars.

E & T Bricklaying Pty Ltd and its director were the third entities to be convicted after a 26 year old bricklayer suffered serious electric shock injuries when he made contact with overhead power lines while installing vertical metal bars into brickwork at a residential and commercial construction site on Stewart Avenue, Hammondville in April 2012. The bricklayer, who was pronounced dead at the scene but revived by the Director, suffered electrical burns to his hands, arms and torso in the incident.

SafeWork NSW charged E & T Bricklaying Pty Ltd with a breach of section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW) for failing to comply with its duty under section 19(1) of the Act and its Director was charged with a breach of section 32 of the Act for failing to comply with his duty under section 27 of the Act. They were both found guilty in the District Court.

Two other companies, Ultra Group Pty Ltd, the principal contractor and builders at the site and JMW Developments Pty Ltd, the installer of the scaffold, were fined $500,000 in 2014 and $75,000 in 2015 respectively.

The judge found that the Director of E & T Bricklaying failed to exercise due diligence by not checking that the scaffold was a safe distance from power lines and verifying that a risk assessment had been conducted.

Executive Director of SafeWork NSW, Peter Dunphy said the incident could have been prevented if the business had a few simple safe work systems in place.

"There was a clear risk that the bricklayer could receive a potentially deadly electric shock if they came into contract with the power lines while working from the scaffolding," Dunphy said.

"The Director should have verified that a safety assessment had been conducted, ensured the scaffolding was a safe distance from power lines and advised the bricklayer of the risk.

"Unfortunately, this did not occur and the bricklayer almost died in an incident that was completely preventable.

"Fines from this incident now total almost three quarters of a million dollars, serving as a strong deterrent to those in the construction industry thinking about ignoring safety laws."