Contractor cops $150,000 fine for workplace electrocution

One of the main contractors on the $1.86 billion Forrestfield-Airport Link Project has been fined $150,000 for failing to provide a safe workplace after a worker suffered electrical burns to 38 per cent of their body.

Salini Australia Pty Ltd, which is a subsidiary of the WeBuild Group that’s in a joint venture with NRW Holdings for the train line, entered a guilty plea in the Perth Magistrate’s Court last month over the incident from October, 2017.

The worker, a rigger, has permanent physical injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder after he received the severe electric shock on the job. He had been holding a pole that was being moved by a crane which came into contact or close to 132,000-volt overheard power lines.

The joint venture partners have reported four out of the 10 lost-time injuries at the project between March, 2017 and 2019. The first sod was turned on the project in November, 2016, under the Barnett Government.

WorkSafe WA commissioner Darren Kavanagh said there was no safe system of work in place at the site on the day of the incident.

“Soon after this incident, Salini adopted some simple procedures including erecting warning signs and visual flagging indicators, enforcing a minimum approach distance to power lines of six metres and physical relocation of the overhead power lines,” he said.

“However this was all too late for the worker who was seriously injured in this incident and who will live with the physical and mental consequences of his injuries for a long time.”

Salini Impregilo–NRW project director Richard Graham said Salini Australia had accepted responsibility and expressed its remorse for the incident.

“It sincerely regrets the pain suffered by the employee and his family, and continues to strengthen its health and safety measures to the maximum,” he said.

“The Salini Impregilo-NRW joint venture responsible for the Forrestfield-Airport Link reviewed and improved the processes and procedures in this regard, and provided additional training to workers involved in the project.

“Support was provided through weekly visits to the employee and a financial contribution was made to assist his family with immediate costs. The Joint Venture also provided assistance to the employee in retraining for different skills that could be utilised in a new occupation.”

Opposition transport spokeswoman Libby Mettam claims the project has been mismanaged under the current government.

“Ensuring the safety of workers on state government projects should be the first priority of government and while I welcome the prosecution of the contractor involved in this case, I question whether the fine will lead to any long-term changes,” she said.

“The seemingly lax safety culture on this project has resulted in a string of incidents and multiple safety breaches over many years and it appears that the McGowan government isn’t taking it seriously.

“While the McGowan government may claim it is a contractor issue, the reality is the buck stops with them and change must come from the top.

“In at least one of these cases, the worker has been unable to return to work for more than a year and is yet to receive any compensation, claiming he feels abandoned by the state government.”

A state government spokeswoman said they had inherited the contract from the previous government and they had made safety the number one priority on the project.

“We have worked as much as possible within the contract to improve safety on the Forrestfield- Airport Link Project,” she said.

“We have encouraged and facilitated meetings with WorkSafe and had them visit the site on multiple occasions while also increasing the amount of surveillance workers from one to three to ensure there is 24-7 coverage.

“An additional 24 full time equivalent staff, including 21 additional inspectors, have been employed by WorkSafe.”

The Forrestfield-Airport Link is a joint initiative between the federal and state government set to deliver a new rail service to Perth’s eastern suburbs by creating three new stations; Redcliffe, Airport Central and Forrestfield.

The project is part of the state government’s Metronet vision, which aims to connect communities through “world class public transport.” Trains will start operating on the line in late 2021.

WeBuild Group was contacted for comment.

Lost-time injuries reported by Salini and NRW to WorkSafe 2017-2019:

  • October 20, 2017, a crane came into contact with a Western Power 132,000 volt line injuring a worker. The injured worker received electrical burns to his body.
  • July 7, 2018, a flexible compressed air line detached from its main steel pipe injuring a worker. The injured work received a non-life-threatening head and facial injury.
  • December 15, 2018, part of a worker’s arm was crushed by one of the tunnel boring machine’s hydraulic thrust rams.
  • June 27, 2019, a worker assigned to attending a water pump at the low point of a tunnel had a slurry/water mix enter his gumboots. After leaving work, the worker reported discomfort to his lower leg area and was later treated for chemical burns.

Source: WA Today

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