An experienced unit controller has died after an incident at a Victorian power station, adding to the 106 Australians already killed in 2018 in workplace accidents.
EnergyAustralia confirmed that Graeme Edwards died on Tuesday (13 November) from injuries he sustained while dealing with a high-voltage circuit breaker at its Yallourn Power Station.
In a detailed statement, EnergyAustralia’s managing director Catherine Tanna said that “no words can express the distress” being felt by Mr Edwards’ colleagues and those close to him.
“Graeme spent three decades at Yallourn after moving from Melbourne, because he wanted to make his career in energy,” Ms Tanna said.
“He was known as a gentleman, a hardworking and popular teammate. He’d just celebrated his 54th birthday.
“On the afternoon of Monday, 12 November, Graeme suffered severe burns to a large portion of his body as he was re-installing a high-voltage circuit breaker on one of the plant’s four generation units.
“The procedure, known as ‘racking’, is a routine but potentially hazardous part of operations, done by trained operators wearing protective clothing and equipment. The work involves manually winding the circuit into place. It was part of a planned 70-day maintenance program on the generation unit.”
Ms Tanna said that emergency services were on site within 15 minutes and airlifted Mr Edwards to hospital, where he was placed on life support. But he passed away a day later, with his family at his bedside.
“We have offered them any assistance we can provide,” said Ms Tanna.
“EnergyAustralia is [also] providing support to its people through its Employee Assistance Program and onsite chaplaincy service.
“The area of the plant where Graeme was working has been made safe. WorkSafe Victoria will do an investigation, as will EnergyAustralia. We will find out what went wrong.
“Right now, our immediate priority is Graeme’s family and our people and providing what little comfort we can to them.”
She added: “Graeme’s loss is deeply felt by his friends at Yallourn and by everyone who knew him.”
In October, EnergyAustralia revealed that the power station would undergo refurbishment works at a cost of $40 million.
Mr Edwards’ death adds to the 106 people already killed in Australian workplaces so far in 2018, as at 1 November.
According to Safe Work Australia, there had already been two deaths in the electricity, gas, water and waste services sector this year prior to this latest accident.
By far the deadliest industry this year has been the transport, postal and warehousing sector with 33 fatal accidents to date – closely followed by 30 more deaths in agriculture, forestry and fishing.
Despite so many deaths of people at work, 2018 is on track to be safer at Australian workplaces than in recent years. In 2017, a total of 190 Australians were killed at work, and an almost identical number (187) died the year before.
While most sectors have seen fewer fatalities this year than last, Safe Work Australia has recorded a significant spike in deaths at manufacturing workplaces so far in 2018 compared to 2017 – more than doubling from four to nine.
Mining deaths also increased from three to five, and the wholesale trade sector saw an increase from one to two deaths.
There has also been one death recorded in the administrative and support services sector in 2018, which was fatality-free the year prior.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.