On Friday, NSW based construction company WGA Pty Ltd was issued with a landmark $1million fine, along with $50,000 in costs following serious Workplace Health & Safety offences.
The landmark decision follows the electrocution of sub-contractor Christopher Cullen at a residential building site on Sydney’s King Georges Road in 2014. Despite three prohibition notices from a WHS inspector enforcing an exclusion zone around low-lying power lines, no precautions were taken by the Principal Contractor Mark Hassan.
NSW District Court Judge Andrew Scotting found that “The gravity of the risk was significant and included a risk of death. The potential consequences were catastrophic in that an electric shock was likely to cause death or at the very least serious injury because the upper power lines were carrying 33Kv.”
Sub-contractor Mr Cullen had not been informed of the risks posed to him, and as such in June 2014 an angle he was holding on to came in contact with the powerlines. A witness “heard an explosion and then saw a worker thrown backwards on the scaffolding. The worker appeared to be on fire and his head was hanging over the fourth storey of the worksite.”
Mr Cullen received burns to 30% of his body, had to undergo several surgeries and extensive skin grafts, was hospitalised for three months, and has not been able to return to work since the incident.
Judge Scotting found that Mr Hassan “knew of the risk posed by that work and the magnitude of the risk but did not warn Mr Cullen.”
“Employers must take the obligations imposed by the Act very seriously. The community is entitled to expect that both small and large employers will comply with safety requirements.”