Beldon electric shock: WA Government could be up for millions, lawyer says

Denishar Woods.
Denishar Woods.

THE WA government faces a potential multi-million dollar claim after an 11-year-old girl suffered a life-threatening electric shock from a garden tap at her family’s public housing property, a prominent lawyer says.

Denishar Woods is in a critical condition at Princess Margaret Hospital after touching the tap at the Beldon property on Saturday night.

Lawyer John Hammond said the Department of Housing’s responsibility to ensure the safety of public housing was clear.

“If the young girl dies, the mother and all the siblings who were present would have a claim against the state for nervous shock,” Mr Hammond said.

“If she survives with horrendous injuries, then as a minor, she will have a massive claim against the state as well. It would be a multi-million dollar claim.”

In addition to offering counselling, the State Government should also agree to pay for all medical costs, which could be done without admitting liability, he said.

Housing minister Peter Tinley told reporters on Monday responsibility for the incident would only be established once an investigation was complete.

The lawyer also said all public housing should be immediately checked in light of the incident.

Michael Bunko, a director at WA’s electricity regulator, believes the tragedy was likely caused by a fault in the neutral conductor supplying power to the property.

An upstream “open circuit neutral” could be caused by corrosion, a loose connection and in some cases, poor workmanship, Mr Bunko said, and residual current devices would not protect against them.

“If you get a fault upstream, generally before the main switchboard where the electricity is coming in, the RCD can’t see it and won’t operate,” he said.

The girl likely suffered a shock up to 230 volts AC and anything above 50 volts AC was dangerous, Mr Bunko said.

A spokesman for Mr Tinley told AAP safety devices fitted to electrical systems at public housing properties were checked annually at inspections.