Death of Yallourn power station worker Graeme Edwards caused by equipment fault says Energy Australia


Updated

June 14, 2019 17:46:06

Power company Energy Australia has taken blame for an equipment fault which led to the death of unit controller Graeme Edwards who worked at the Yallourn Power Station in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley for 30 years.

Key points:

  • Energy Australia said Mr Edwards was not at fault
  • Company says it failed to manage the hazard
  • Worksafe Victoria is continuing with its investigation into the incident

Mr Edwards had just celebrated his 54th birthday when he was badly burnt in an electrical short circuit while performing a routine task on November 12, 2018.

He died from his injuries a day later at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.

An internal company investigation found Mr Edwards was doing his job exactly as he had been trained and that the source of high voltage power was not adequately barricaded to protect workers from being injured.

‘He did nothing wrong’

Graeme Edwards was reinstalling a high voltage (6.6kV) circuit breaker at the Yallourn power station — a task known as ‘racking’, when an arc flash occurred.

The electricity short circuited to earth through a communications cable which was found to be too long.

Energy Australia Manager of health, safety, security and environment, Chan Sinnadurai said the barrier between the high voltage electricity and Mr Edwards was movable and not fixed in place.

“There were two key findings. The first one was that Graeme did his job and did it in a professional manner, the second finding was that the barrier in place to prevent access to the circuit breaker was inadequate and allowed for inadvertent contact with the live component.”

“The fact that the fibreglass panel barrier was essentially hinged was unique to that particular cubicle but we have now put stainless steel panels in place that are permanently fixed,” Mr Edwards said.

The internal investigation found Graeme Edwards was a conscientious and professional operator who performed the racking procedure as he had been trained to do.

Mr Sinnadurai said the company worked hard to manage hazards at the power station, but admitted the company had failed in this case.

“In this instance we clearly got it wrong.

“There was a hazard on our site that we were unaware of and Graeme paid the ultimate price as a result of that.”

Chronology of events

November 12, 2018

  • 3.48pm – Arc flash occurs, first aid on scene immediately
  • 3.52pm – Power station rescue team reaches Mr Edwards
  • 4.06pm – Police and ambulance arrive
  • 4.14pm – Ambulance officers start treating Mr Edwards
  • 5.30pm – Worksafe Victoria investigators arrive
  • 5.46pm – Air ambulance leaves Yallourn with Mr Edwards on board
  • 6.20pm – Air ambulance arrives at Alfred Hospital

November 13, 2018

  • 12:00pm – Mr Edwards dies in hospital

Company says safety at Yallourn is being improved

Since Mr Edward’s death, immovable barriers have been installed on top of each circuit breaker to prevent any inadvertent access.

“We’ve shared the findings of our investigation with the wider industry so they can take action if their sites are similar and we’ve completed specialist studies using external experts to ensure this kind of event can never occur again,” Mr Edwards said.

“We let Graeme down, we let our workers down,”

Worksafe Victoria is continuing with its investigation and has been given access to the Energy Australia internal report.

Energy Australia executive energy spokeswoman Liz Westcott said the internal investigation was thorough.

“Energy Australia has a responsibility to keep our people safe and we failed to do so,”

“We are truly sorry and there’s no amount of apologies that will ever be enough for Graeme and his family.

The Yallourn power station was commissioned in the 1970s, more than 45 years ago and is scheduled to close in 2032.

Topics:

electricity-energy-and-utilities,

mining-industry,

occupational-health-and-safety,

yallourn-north-3825

First posted

June 14, 2019 17:28:05



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