EnergyAustralia to plead guilty to charges over worker death

EnergyAustralia chief operating officer Liz Westcott. file photograph

Michelle Slater

EnergyAustralia is intending to plead guilty to breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in relation to the death of Yallourn Power Station unit controller Graeme Edwards in November 2018.

The plea will be heard in the Latrobe Valley Magistrates Court on Friday, June 3, after WorkSafe laid three charges in December last year.

Mr Edwards had died after he sustained burns following reinstalling a high-voltage circuit breaker at Yallourn.

EnergyAustralia chief operating officer Liz Westcott said Mr Edwards had been performing the racking procedure as he had been trained to do.

“His death has had a profound impact on his family, his workmates, the community and EnergyAustralia. We cannot fully express how sorry we are,” Ms Westcott said.

WorkSafe alleged that EnergyAustralia had failed to provide plant safety, and failed to provide information and training in accordance with its operating manual.

Other breaches included failing to provide required personal protective equipment.

“We’ve made numerous safety improvements at Yallourn power station since this tragedy in 2018,” Ms Westcott said.

“Every measure is aimed at ensuring that no other family goes through what the Edwards’ have experienced.”

EnergyAustralia had reviewed its circuit breakers and electrical hazards at Yallourn, and had introduced new safety features, including updated equipment and gear in the past four years.

WorkSafe laid the charges following a review by the Department of Public Prosecutions after pressure from the CFMMEU.

But the work safety regulator had originally not intended to press charges after the incident, despite an investigation finding the company was at fault.

CFMMEU Victorian mining and energy division vice president Mark Richards said he would be closely watching the sentencing of the case.

Mr Richards said the union would also be pushing for the details into the incident and did not rule out seeking a coronial Inquiry.

“We won’t have any justice without knowing the sentence. We want details of what happened and where the mistakes were made so this won’t happen at any other sites,” Mr Richards said.

“The Edwards’ family is still seeking clarity on how the death happened, and they may probably have to await the details of a coroner Inquiry.”