Power companies fined after workers suffer preventable burns
19 December 2011
Two Southland power companies have been fined a total of $72,000, after the wrong power line was turned off during maintenance, burning two linemen who were more than a kilometre apart.
The Invercargill District Court heard that on 19 January this year unclear instructions were given over which 33kv line was to be disconnected to allow the removal of adjoining redundant lines in Invercargill.
Today Powernet Ltd, which manages the Southland electricity distribution network, was fined $36,000, with reparation of $12,000, and Power Services Ltd, which maintains the lines, was fined $36,000, with reparation of $8,000.
“One workman touched the live line with a redundant line, giving him a shock that went from his hand, across his chest and out through his elbow onto another redundant line,” says the Department’s Southern General Manager Jean Martin.
“The shock then travelled 1.2km to a colleague retrieving redundant lines, entering through his hands and exiting through his feet,” Ms Martin says.
“Both men required serious treatment in hospital for burns – they are fortunate not to have been more seriously injured,” she says.
“Powernet was responsible for ensuring the correct line was disconnected. Both companies should have identified hazards associated with the work, and Power Services should have tested the supposedly disconnected line before allowing work nearby,” says Ms Martin.
Ms Martin says that the systemic failure that resulted in these injuries needs to be addressed by the power industry, particularly in the South.
Notes to Editor
- Power Services Ltd was convicted on one charge under Section 6 and s50(1)(a) of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 which states:
- Every employer shall take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of employees while at work; and in particular shall take all practicable steps to—
- (a) provide and maintain for employees a safe working environment; and
- (b) provide and maintain for employees while they are at work facilities for their safety and health; and
- (c) ensure that plant used by any employee at work is so arranged, designed, made, and maintained that it is safe for the employee to use; and
- (d) ensure that while at work employees are not exposed to hazards arising out of the arrangement, disposal, manipulation, organisation, processing, storage, transport, working, or use of things—
- (i) in their place of work; or
- (ii) near their place of work and under the employer's control; and
- (e) develop procedures for dealing with emergencies that may arise while employees are at work.
- Powernet Ltd was convicted on one charge under Section 18(1)(a) Every principal shall take all practicable steps to ensure that—
- (a) no employee of a contractor or subcontractor; and
- (b) if an individual, no contractor or subcontractor,—
is harmed while doing any work (other than residential work) that the contractor was engaged to do.
- The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 is available online.