FQM Australia Nickel Pty Ltd fined $65,000 for arc flash incident

FQM has been fined $65,000 after a worker was injured in an electrical arc flash at the company's Ravensthorpe Nickel Operations
Date: Thursday, 05 October 2017

FQM Australia Nickel Pty Ltd has been fined $65,000 in the Perth Magistrates Court after a worker was injured in an electrical arc flash at the company’s Ravensthorpe Nickel Operations.

Shane Russell, employed as an electrician on the site, was working inside an electrical substation on 29 July 2011 when the arc flash occurred.

Mr Russell's co-workers heard a yell, followed by a bang, from the area he was working in and went to his aid.

Mr Russell sustained burns to his left hand and the left side of his face as the result of the arc flash. Mr Russell underwent medical treatment and was hospitalised, but did not suffer any permanent injuries.

An investigation by the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety found an internal report by FQM into a previous incident four months earlier had identified the danger of working on the Motor Control Centre (MCC) without full isolation.

There was no hard barricade behind the isolator to prevent accidental contact with uninsulated live bus bars.

The potential consequence of an arc flash re-occurrence was identified as being "major" and the likelihood was "possible".

It recommended that the MCC be fully isolated prior to working on the module and that a hard barricade be installed to prevent accidental contact with the live bus bars.

Mines Safety Director Andrew Chaplyn said an arc flash can cause severe burns and even death to workers nearby.

"This was a preventable incident and had the potential to be fatal," Mr Chaplyn said.

"It is critical that companies immediately implement actions recommended from previous incidents and ensure there are effective controls in place.

"The dangers of an arc flash and electrocution are well known as are the control measures that should be taken to avoid them."

Western Australia's electrical safety regulator, Energy Safety, is in the process of amending legislation to ban electrical work on energised electrical equipment.

This will include electrical work undertaken on mine sites. It is expected the proposed changes will come into effect later this year.