NT company fined after apprentice dies from electrocution

An electrical company and its director have been fined $81,000 after “failures in the workplace” led to the death of fourth-year apprentice electrician, Derick Suratin.

NT WorkSafe charged Dex­ter Barnes Electrical and director Russell O’Donnell in 2019.

On Thursday, Dexter Barnes Electrical and O’Donnell were sentenced in Alice Springs Local Court after pleading guilty in December to failing to comply with a health and safety duty. The court heard in February 2019, Mr Suratin and a third-year electrical apprentice were on the roof of the Tennant Creek Fire Station, working unsupervised on a livewire system.

Mr Suratin was electrocuted after touching a live wire while alone on the roof. This was witnessed by an employee of Absolute Rennos, while O’Donnell – and the third-year apprentice – were elsewhere in the fire station.

The court heard O’Donnell tried to pull Mr Suratin away by grabbing his boot, however, the boot had not been done up and Mr Suratin fell over.

“He attempted the same on the other boot, however, that was also not done up and he again fell over,” Judge Greg Borchers said. “He eventually managed to get his foot between Mr Suratin and the wire and kick the wire out.”

The court heard the plant room was locked and the power had not been isolated. Neither party was wearing fall-prevention equipment working at heights, there was no safety management system provided and no job safety analysis recorded, and there was no dedication of appropriate staff or general supervision.

“There was no job card, job safety analysis or documents of any kind relating to risk identification, explicitly working at height and working with electricity,” Mr Borchers said.

The court heard a victim impact statement from Mr Suratin’s wife stating the impact the pain has had on her family was “immeasurable” and the consequences of his death, including raising a family, would “last a lifetime”.

In a statement by O’Donnell he revealed the death devastated him and his employees.

“We are motivated to never lose another life. We are so remorseful,” it said.

Ridem Pty Ltd was convicted and fined $81,000 and ordered to fund an electrical safety campaign for the Barkly-based electricians with a payment of $40,000 to NT WorkSafe. O’Donnell was fined $40,000, ordered to undertake a WHS risk management course and pay $24,127 to NT WorkSafe.

Source: Sunshine Coast Daily

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