Energy Australia Yallourn fined after arc flash fatality - 27.2.23

The operator of Yallourn Power Station has been convicted and fined a total of $1.5 million after the death of a worker in November 2018. Energy Australia Yallourn Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to three charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The company was fined $700,000 for failing to provide and maintain plant that was safe and without risks to health; $300,000 for failing for provide information, instruction and training; and $500,000 for failing to provide or maintain safe systems of work.

Graeme Edwards, 54, died in hospital with severe burns sustained in an arc flash and explosion that occurred while he was racking a 6.6 kV circuit breaker in a high voltage switch room that was being returned to service after a planned major outage. The incident likely occurred when a control cable being held by Edwards made contact with live components of the circuit breaker due to an inadequately attached infill panel on the switchboard cabinet. Edwards, who had more than 30 years’ experience working at the power station, had been carrying out his duties in the way he had been trained to do so.

Energy Australia Yallourn admitted it was reasonably practicable for it to have ensured any infill panels installed on high voltage switchboards were securely affixed and were not able to move or swing. The company also acknowledged that it should have ensured workers, including Edwards, knew that it was safer to attach the control cable to the circuit breaker before racking, in accordance with its written operating procedures. The operator also admitted that it should have provided, and required workers to wear, readily available arc-related personal protective equipment (PPE), which provides thermal protection and is self-extinguishing. At the time of the incident, Edwards was wearing flammable cotton overalls, which can reportedly increase the area, depth and severity of burn injuries.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said the incident is a reminder to duty holders of the potential costs of failing to ensure workers are protected from health and safety risks.

“WorkSafe hopes there is a degree of comfort to Mr Edwards’ family, friends and workmates knowing that the many learnings from this tragedy will go a long way to help prevent similar incidents in the future,” Beer said.