WorkSafe is urging employers to mitigate any risks before carrying out electrical work, after a worker was left with serious electrical burns to his hands.

In a decision released by the Invercargill District Court this week, Wallace Murray Electrical Limited was fined $150,000 following the incident, which took place while the worker was replacing a switchboard in October 2017.

The worker was drilling into the switchboard at the Waikiwi pumping station in Invercargill when there was an electrical explosion which left them with burns to his hands.

WorkSafe’s investigation found while the worker was qualified and experienced with switchboards, the explosion was most likely caused when a fine chip of copper made contact with live terminals.

Head of Specialist Interventions Simon Humphries said an experienced worker has suffered from injury in the workplace because his employer didn’t ensure risks were mitigated.

“Wallace Murray Electrical Limited should have identified risks associated with this job. While power to the switchboard was shut off before this work took place, power was still being supplied throughout the whole plant. 

“There should have been a complete shutdown of power to the building. This is a wakeup call for the employer. They are lucky that in this instance the worker didn’t suffer from far worse injuries, or death.”


  • A fine of $150,000 was imposed.
  • Reparations of $8,000 were ordered.
  • Wallace Murray Electrical Limited was charged under sections 36(2), 48(1) and (2)(c)of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
    • Being a PCBU, failed to ensure so far as was reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers who worked for the PCBU, while the workers were at work in the business or undertaking, namely switchboard installation work, did fail to comply with that duty, and that failure exposed the workers to a risk of serious injury from exposure to an arc flash.
  • The maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $1,500,000.

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