Ergon must take responsibility after preventable death

The Electrical Trades Union is demanding Ergon and its CEO Rod Duke take responsibility for asset inspection and maintenance after a preventable accident resulted in the electrocution and death of a 25-year-old pineapple farmer in Bungundarra, north of Yeppoon.

Initial reports state that a stay wire had broken, lowering the height of the Live HV conductors considerably below statutory heights. The 25-year-old harvester was found dead, and six others were injured.

“This incident would have been entirely preventable if Ergon had inspected and maintained their assets properly,” says ETU Assistant State Secretary Stuart Traill.

“We’re looking at the CEO of Ergon Rod Duke and calling on him personally to address this and commit resources to maintaining assents in Central and North Queensland. The asset was inspected last year but their inspection process is clearly deficient if assets can fail so badly that they cause fatalities.

“Ergon has blood on its hands. It’s not the first time we’ve seen a tragedy like this. They have the money to inspect and maintain their assets, there’s absolutely no reason not to do it. People are getting injured and dying because of their refusal to maintain and upgrade assets.”

The harvester’s death comes just months after another preventable incident 1000km north of Yeppoon, in El Arish, where two children were injured by a 415 Volt live open wire conductor fell into the river they were fishing in. Fortunately, the children both recovered after a visit to hospital.

“We’ve been fighting for improved maintenance on these conductors for decades,” says Mr Traill. “The 2005 Somerville Inquiry found that Ergon had under-invested in their networks. It’s been 16 years, and little has changed. How many people need to die before Ergon takes this seriously?”

“The entire network needs an enormous amount of maintenance work as evidenced on the night of the Olympics announcement, where an aged and faulty high voltage underground cable caused extensive outages in the Brisbane CBD.

“If the maintenance isn’t done and enough workers aren’t employed to do the critical maintenance work, Queenslanders will continue to suffer.

“We’re calling on the Department of WHS and the Electrical Safety Office to investigate the incident and the broader state of the network with a view to laying Industrial manslaughter charges,” says Mr Traill.

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