First ‘reckless’ charge results in AUD$900,000 fine | IMPAC health and safety 15

19 June, 2018  |  News


New South Wales’ first ever ‘reckless conduct’ offence has led to an AUD$900,000 fine against small quarry operator, Cudal Lime Products Pty Ltd. The company pleaded guilty following the 2014 death by electrocution of Judith Liehr, the partner of a quarry employee, Barry Perceval.

The electricity supply to the cottage they lived in, 200m from the quarry, came from the quarry’s supply. While at work on the day of the incident, Perceval turned on the electric motor to the rock crusher.

He returned home a short time later for morning tea, to find his partner collapsed in the shower. She had been electrocuted when she came into contact with a flexible metallic shower hose while standing on the metallic waste drain in the shower.

 

shane mclendon 534671 unsplash1The small quarry operator has been fined following the death of Judith Liehr. Photo by Shane McLendon on Unsplash

 

There had been electrical problems in the past

 According to the NSW District Court amendment notes, there had been a history of electrical problems at the quarry going back many years. The company had been made aware of the past issues, but never properly addressed many of them.

A number of these faults contributed to the 240V of electricity running through the metal fittings of the cottage, including the work that a quarry employee – Simon Shannon – had done on a switchboard. Not only was Shannon unqualified to do this work; he did it without the necessary close supervision of a qualified person. The court found that this was a money-saving tactic.

 

The judge’s ruling

On top of the AUD$900,000 fine the company was charged with, Shannon also pleaded guilty and was fined AUD$48,000.

Regarding Shannon’s actions, Judge AC Scotting said, “The direction of an unqualified person to install the switchboard to save costs was an act devoid of social utility, so that the foresight of the possibility of the risk of serious injury or death arising was sufficient to constitute recklessness.”