An electric shock which cost an Auckland scaffolder both his arms could have been avoided if his employer had paid closer attention to who was authorised to do the work
Jahden Nelson was dismantling scaffolding in April 2022, when a steel pole he was holding contacted an overhead powerline in the West Auckland suburb of Massey.
As a result of the incident, Jahden received high voltage electrical burns to his upper and lower limbs, including an exit wound of the electrical charge through his left foot. Both arms were amputated to the upper bicep, and he will need daily assistance for routine activities for the rest of his life given the nature of his injuries.
The employer, CPA 2022 Limited, has now been sentenced for its health and safety failures.
The worksite had been given a Close Approach Consent, which is required when work is being done near overhead powerlines. The consent required the crew that put up the scaffolding to be the same crew that took it down, for safety reasons.
However, WorkSafe found that none of the four-man dismantling crew (including Jahden Nelson) had been involved at the outset. The initial crew received a briefing on how workers could safely operate under high-voltage lines, but not the dismantling crew.
Companies need to make sure that expert information they receive is shared with all workers who need it.
“Jahden was a young man who went to work fit and healthy, and now has an ongoing struggle to adjust to a fundamentally different way of life. His attitude, bravery, and determination to keep going is a testament to his strength of character,” says WorkSafe’s area investigation manager, Paul West.
“Anyone working in or around electricity, especially high voltage lines, needs to be aware of the specific requirements that come with Close Approach Consents. Lines companies can assist with the consent process if needed.
“For a seemingly simple communication breakdown to have such far-reaching consequences is horrendous,” says Paul West.
- CPA 2022 Limited was sentenced at Waitakere District Court on 13 November 2023.
- Fine reduced to $0 due to the company’s inability to pay. Details of the reparations were suppressed by the Court.
- CPA 2022 was charged under sections 36(1)(a) and 48(1) and (2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015:
- Being a PCBU having a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers who work for the PCBU, including Jahden Nelson, while the workers are at work in the business or undertaking, namely dismantling scaffolding, did fail to comply with that duty and that failure exposed workers to a risk of death or serious injury arising from the interaction between workers and overhead electric lines.
- The maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $1.5 million.