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Electric Burns result in $80,000 fine

Weekly WHS Article 29th February 2024


What happened

You would think that cleaning one of the swimming pools at a local council Aquatic Centre would be a simple, routine and fairly risk-free activity. However, an employee suffered electric burns and was unable to move for 5-10 minutes. This ended up with the local council being prosecuted in the Magistrates Court.


A lifeguard / supervisor was cleaning a pool at the Aquatic Centre using a vacuum connected by an electrical lead and battery, and manoeuvred around the bottom of the pool by an aluminium pole that could be attached to it. This activity was part of the lifeguard’s responsibilities of cleaning, maintaining, and servicing the pools. 

The pole that the lifeguard was using on the day the incident occurred was extended to its maximum length of 9.7 metres. It was routinely extended to this length during the cleaning process. 


When the lifeguard removed the extended pole from the pool it was about 1 metre from the edge of the pool. However, the other end of the pole came in contact with uninsulated overhead 110 kilovolts powerlines, that ran above the back area of the pool, approximately 8.2 metres from the ground.


What did the magistrate decide caused the injury?

The Magistrate examined the evidence and decided that the defendant had failed to implement control measures such as.

  • Complete a risk assessment in relation to the pool cleaning procedure.

  • Ensure that there was a safe system of work for cleaning the pool and aquatic centre   grounds. 

  • Require workers to use low-risk cleaning equipment.  

  • Provide clear warning signs, and mandate exclusion zones.

  • Provide training, instruction, and supervision to workers.


The Magistrate took into account mitigating factors including that the Council had entered an early plea of guilty and had an exemplary history of serving the community. The result was that the Magistrate ordered that the Council pay a fine of $80,000 and pay the injured worker $5,000 in compensation.   


This case highlights….

  • Lack of Risk assessments – specifically in relation to the pool cleaning procedure.

  • Lack of Training: Injured worker had no prior experience, received minimal training. 

  • Inadequate Systems of work: 

a) For cleaning the pool and aquatic centre grounds. 

b) No mandated exclusion zones.

c) Warning signs not clear.


How Courtenell can help….

  • Courtenell can support the business with comprehensive and tailored training programs for all employees, including WHS Risk Management, Consultation and WHS responsibilities of various Duty holders.

  • Conduct Risk Assessment of Plant, equipment, and processes to ensure compliance with the Legislation and applicable standards.

  • Conduct WHS Compliance Audits in line with the requirements outlined in WHS act, the Regulations and associated AS / ISO Standards.

  • Develop, review and update SWMS, JSAs, Work Instructions, checklists, risk registers to ensure on-going compliance.


If you have any questions or would like to discuss your needs, please feel free to call 02 9552 2066, or reach out to Stephen Georgulis @ stephen.g@courtenell.com.au or Kevin Gaskell @ kevin.g@courtenell.com.au





29th February 2024








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