Business are being urged to regularly check the safety of their electrical systems after Silver Fern Farms Limited was fined $38,500 and ordered to pay $12,500 (of which $10,000 has already been paid by the company) in reparation after a worker suffered serious burns from an exposed live cable.
The incident occurred in June 2015 at the company’s Fairton plant and Sliver Fern Farms was sentenced in the Ashburton District Court today under the Health and Safety in Employment Act.
During electrical work about ten years before the incident, a redundant electrical cable in a switchboard room was set in concrete facing up, with wiring exposed and unprotected and connected to a switchboard in another part of the plant. At the time of the incident the cable was live with 400 volts of electricity. A WorkSafe investigation was unable to establish whether it had been live since the work was undertaken, or whether it had been livened since.
On 8 June 2015 the victim was cleaning in the switchboard room. He came into contact with the exposed live cable and a flashover occurred. He was knocked over by the force of the explosion which caused burns to his face and both hands.
At sentencing today Judge Maze said it was hard to understand how an accident had not happened earlier and noted the outcome in this case could have been much worse.
“This wire should have been deactivated, buried or otherwise isolated to ensure no-one could come into contact with it,” Keith Stewart, WorkSafe’s Chief Investigator says.
“The company failed to identify hazards in relation the exposed wire and should also have ensured the worker was adequately trained in working around electrical installations.
“This incident reinforces the need for companies to identify and manage risk in the workplace to ensure no-one has to suffer debilitating injuries as this worker did,” Mr Stewart says.