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Feedlot fined $140,000 after telehandler operator electrocuted

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A Wimmera feedlot operator has been convicted and fined $140,000 following the electrocution of a worker while operating a telehandler in 2020.

Harmony Operations Australia Pty Ltd was sentenced in the Horsham Magistrates’ Court today after pleading guilty to one charge of failing to provide and maintain a working environment that was safe and without risks to health and one charge of failing to provide necessary information and instruction to enable employees to work safely.

The court heard the 29-year-old worker was using a telehandler to stack hay bales at the Gerang Gerung property in November 2020 when the raised boom and bale lifting attachment made contact with overhead power lines.

Witnesses saw a flash from the telehandler’s back tyre before the worker jumped from the cab and suffered a fatal electric shock.

A WorkSafe investigation found that while workers were required to complete a verification of competence that included reading the company’s safe work procedure for the telehandler, this did not address the risk of coming into contact with overhead power lines.

The court found it was reasonably practicable for the company to have established a three-metre exclusion zone around the power line, to have identified the exclusion zone as part of its system of work and to have provided information and instruction about the exclusion zone to workers.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said the fatality was an absolute tragedy that could have been avoided, with control measures available to guard against the risk of electrocution well known within the industry.

“This case is a heartbreaking reminder of what can happen when the risks of operating machinery near power lines are not safely managed,” Dr Beer said.

“It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, duty holders working near overhead power lines need to ensure they have safe systems of work in place and that workers receive the information and instruction they need to do the job safely.”

Nhill Free Press & Kaniva Times 6 December 2023

This article appeared in the Nhill Free Press & Kaniva Times, 6 December 2023.

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