Company fined over injury to air-conditioning apprentice at Woodbine KFC

Company fined over injury to air-conditioning apprentice at Woodbine KFC

A company has been fined $150,000 after one of its apprentice workers was injured on the job at Woodbine in 2017.

Ultra Refrigeration Pty Limited was fined in the NSW District Court late last month in relation to the incident which occurred at Woodbine KFC.

The court heard Ultra Refrigeration had assigned two air-conditioning apprentices to replace a three-phase circuit breaker at the fast food establishment in October, 2017, after the KFC had experienced a fault in the air-conditioning system.

The apprentices started work on replacing the circuit breaker in the main switchboard with the power still on in the store.

The elder worker removed the faulty circuit breaker, the court heard, before attempting to fit a new one. However, the replacement part was the incorrect size.

While the fourth-year apprentice attempted to fit the circuit, his pliers came into contact with live power, which caused an 'arc flash explosion'.

The worker was temporarily blinded in the incident, and suffered burns to his exposed hands and fingers. He was taken to Campbelltown Hospital, and then Concord Hospital, where he underwent surgery and required skin grafts to treat his burns.

The court heard the worker was not wearing protective gloves or goggles at the time, but was wearing a long-sleeve jumper, long pants and safety boots.

The younger apprentice, a teenager, was treated for shock.

An investigation by SafeWork NSW found Ultra Refrigeration guilty of breaching the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

The court found neither of the apprentices were qualified to perform the electrical work without supervision by a licenced electrician.

District Court Judge Strathdee ruled the business failed to "ensure so far as was reasonably practical the health and safety of workers".

Ultra Refrigeration was convicted and fined $150,000 (a 25 per cent discount on the full $200,000 fine, due to an early guilty plea), while the company's director was convicted and fined $15,000 for his role in failing to ensure the company complied with its duty under the Act.

The judge noted neither of the defendants had a record of previous convictions and viewed the likelihood of re-offending to be low.

Both Ultra Refigeration and the director have the option to appeal the decision if they choose.

Executive Director of Investigations and Enforcement at Better Regulation Division Valerie Griswold said the case sent a strong message about the need to protect young workers.

"Looking after the most vulnerable in the workplace should be at the heart of any company's safety plans," she said.

"It's so important that young workers get specific training and appropriate supervision to do their job safely."

The full court ruling is available here.