5 key failures at an aquatic centre result in $80,000 fine
The dangers of deficient risk assessments were highlighted in a recent prosecution of the Logan City Council in relation to an incident where a Council employee received an electric shock when cleaning a pool with a metal pole that struck overhead powerlines.
In 2022, the Council operated an aquatic centre where pools would be cleaned using a vacuum manoeuvred around the bottom of the pool by an aluminium pole attached to it. The vacuum was connected by an electrical lead and battery. Above the back of the pool, there were uninsulated overhead powerlines. Due to the level of the voltage, the powerlines required an exclusion zone of 3 metres for untrained persons.
On 20 February 2022, a worker employed by the Council to be a lifeguard and supervisor was cleaning a pool using an aluminium pool pole. The pole was extended and was approximately 1 metre from the edge of the pool. The pole connected with the overhead powerlines, causing the worker to receive an electric shock. As a result, the worker was unable to move for 5–10 minutes, and he suffered minor electrical burns to his leg and foot.
After the incident, it was identified that the Council had failed to implement control measures, such as:
- completing a risk assessment in relation to the pool cleaning procedure;
- implementing a safe system of work for cleaning the pool;
- requiring workers to use low-risk cleaning equipment;
- mandating clear exclusion zones with warning signs; and
- providing training and supervision to its workers.
The Council was charged under section 40C of the Electrical Safety 2002 (Qld) (Act) for failing to comply with its primary health and safety duty pursuant to section 30 of the Act.
During sentencing, the Magistrate considered that there was a high probability of the risk resulting in an injury and the measures to be implemented to control the risk were not cumbersome. He also acknowledged the fact that the worker was still on leave due to the impact of the incident.
The Court also noted the following mitigating factors:
- the Council had entered an early plea of guilty;
- it had an exemplary history of serving the community;
- it had made some enquiries about the safety of the overhead powerlines; and
- there were some procedures in place (although they were largely deficient).
The Council was ordered to pay a fine of $80,000 and to pay the defendant compensation in the amount of $5,000. A conviction was not recorded.
If a company is operating near or using electrical equipment, it has an absolute duty to ensure that a risk assessment is undertaken, to identify and then implement a safe work method to address the risk of electric shock.
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