Plumbing company fined over apprentice’s serious burn injuries

A plumbing company has become the second business to be convicted and fined over an incident in which an apprentice suffered serious burns when he made contact with powerlines.

In October 2015, the 23-year-old worker was working alone, installing fascia and guttering from the top level of scaffolding at a housing site at Coburg when the incident happened. He received substantial burns to his left shoulder, arm, and leg when guttering he was carrying made contact with 22kv powerlines.

The court heard that the scaffolding has been erected just 1.84 metres from overhead powerlines, which was within the minimum safe clearance. The plumbing company failed to prepare the Safe Work Method Statement required for high-risk construction work. It also failed to obtain a permit for working in a no-go zone on scaffolding close to the powerlines.

The plumbing company pleaded guilty to a charge containing two contraventions of section 21 (1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 when it failed to provide a workplace that was safe and without risks to health.

It was fined $ 40,000 and ordered to pay $ 9713 in costs.

In January 2018, the scaffolding company who erected the scaffolding was convicted, and fined $ 100,000 plus $ 3503.45 in costs.

“A young worker was severely injured because no one took the time to ensure scaffolding erected within the minimum safe distance of powerlines had the correct safeguards in place,” said WorkSafe Acting Executive Director Health and Safety, Paul Fowler.

“Scaffolding failures can have catastrophic consequences, and in this case, the young worker is lucky to be alive.

“Every employer in Victoria must provide a safe workplace. Young workers, who may be working in close proximity to overhead powerlines, rightly expect that they will head  home at the end of the day safely.”

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