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Prosecution Details

Defendant Woolworths (WA) Pty Limited
Trading Name Not Applicable
Regulation 4.47(2)(a)
Offence Date Thursday, 10 September 1998
Description of Breach(es)

Being an employer at a workplace, failed to ensure that plant at the workplace which was damaged such that persons were exposed to hazard because of the presence of electricity, was disconnected from the electricity supply and was not used until the damaged part was repaired or replaced.

Background Details

An electrical lead from a glass display cabinet fitted with florescent lighting was damaged near where the lead was attached to the cabinet. A section of the lead's grey plastic insulation was missing and the lead's internal coloured wires were visible.

On the 26 August 1998, the cabinet was plugged in by a sales assistant by joining the cabinet lead to an extension lead that was then plugged into a floor mounted power point. Unlike other cabinet's in the section, the cabinet in question was not plugged into a power point protected by a residual current device or safety switch.

A short time after the cabinet had been plugged in, staff noticed that its light was not working. This was reported and the defendant's Sales Manager undertook to arrange for an electrical contractor to remedy the problem, however this was not done. The cabinet remained in this state for approximately two weeks and for various periods during that time the cabinet's electrical cord was plugged into the power point. At other times, the cord was unplugged and rolled up.

On 10 September 1998 a Sales Assistant was emptying out the cabinet in question and rearranging stock. The Sales Assistant went to unplug the cabinet, assuming the power was turned off as the cabinet light was not working, and bent down to pull apart the cabinet and extension leads. As the Sales Assistant touched the plug end of the cabinet lead, she received an electric shock. A short time later she fainted and was taken to hospital. She subsequently had approximately two weeks off work.

His Worship Mr Michelides SM noted that there had been a clear breakdown in communication and that established procedures had not been followed. His Worship said that it was of concern that the cabinet had been on the floor for two weeks and having the cabinet fixed by a qualified person was easily within the defendant's grasp. On the other hand, His Worship observed that the defendant had a relatively good record and had previously demonstrated a commitment to addressing safety issues. The human fallibility in this case had become corporate fallibility - in all of the circumstances a fine of 1/5 of the maximum was considered appropriate.

The defendant originally pleaded not guilty, but later changed its plea to guilty.

Outcome Summary convicted
Conviction Date 26 Aug 1999
Court Fremantle Court of Petty Sessions
Fine $5,000
Costs $605
Charge Number 2920/99