Western Power fined $70,000

WESTERN Power Corporation was fined $70,000 after a resident suffered electric shocks and burns at a residential development in Baldivis.

Appearing at Rockingham Magistrates Court on November 2, Electricity Networks Corporation trading as Western Power pleaded guilty to a charge of network operator ensures prescribed activity is carried out safely.

Prosecutor Warren Fitt, from the State Solicitors Office, said the incident occurred at the Dales Estate in Baldivis.

He said a resident, Warren Cameron, was clearing away sand and concrete debris from the front of his property when he picked up a connection pillar that had fallen over and placed it back over electrical cables.

He received electric shocks to his right hand and when the pillar was placed back over the cables. This caused an explosion which burned his legs.

The incident occurred at a point where electrical cables for the Dales and neighbouring Avalon estate both terminated in the one place.

The developer’s contractor for the Dales, a Transfield electrician, had not properly terminated one of the cables.

A Western Power inspector later inspected the work but did not pick up the fault.

Counsel for Western Power said they agreed to the statement of facts but the offence was not in the worst category.

She said work on both estates was finished at different times.

Magistrate Stephen Wilson asked if plans for both estates were looked at together.

“One would have thought there may have been cause for both plans to be looked at together,” he said.

“Western Power should have been alert to the fact that there was a potential failing or that someone else had been doing something else on the one point.

“It appears to be an oversight of the inspection; it should have been of particular note where that point of weakness was.”

The lawyer said Western Power inspectors were not responsible for work carried out by contractors and an electrical configuration of this type was rare.

She said the difficulty arose through work being done by different contractors at different times. “It’s all right to say it is not their responsibility, but I would have thought that these things needed to be picked up,” Magistrate Wilson said.

“It is cynical to say only look at half the job, it’s the absolute weak point in the whole inspection process. That’s like saying only do half a job.

“Maybe he would have picked it up if he had plans for both estates electrical work.

“He can’t inspect half of it and hope the other half works.”

The lawyer said the inspection showed the cables were capped.

“He saw a neat-looking set from Avalon and did not see the other. With underground cabling, you can only inspect what is visible,” she said.

“Since the incident, Western Power has made another inspection at Baldivis and reviewed their manual of their works to prevent incidents of this nature happening again.

“Western Power accepts full responsibility for this incident.

“The contractor who had not safely done the ends was not prosecuted, only Western Power. Western Power was not negligent in the inspection. It was not flagrant or calculated.”

In sentencing, Magistrate Wilson said the reasons given did not make any sense.

“That answers the question but it doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “There must be interaction in the power system at all times. The facts are technical but boil down to this: they failed to identify an unsafe cable.”

Western Power were ordered to pay the $70,000 fine and court costs of $1469.30.

A Western Power spokeswoman said the company sincerely regrets the incident and extends sympathy to the affected home owner.