Electrocuted teen wasn't trained: inquest
The employer of a teenager electrocuted installing home insulation under an axed federal government scheme has told an inquest the 16-year-old didn’t receive formal safety training because staying safe was ‘‘common sense’’.
The director of Rockhampton-based Arrow Property Maintenance has told the Queensland Coroner’s Court the only safety training provided to his workers installing insulation was being told ‘‘to keep their eyes out and their ears open’’ for hazards.
Rueben Barnes, 16, had been working for Arrow for just three weeks when he was killed laying fibreglass insulation batts in the ceiling of a house at Stanwell, near Rockhampton, in November 2009.
He was one of three Queenslanders killed while installing insulation in 2009 and 2010 under the federal government’s axed Home Insulation Program.
The first-year carpentry apprentice collapsed when he came into contact with a metal part of the ceiling that was ‘‘live’’ due to a pre-existing electrical fault in the house.
Arrow director Richard Jackson gave evidence on the first day of a coronial inquest into the three deaths on Monday.
Appearing via video link he admitted the only safety training he gave workers installing insulation was to look out for hazards such as bare wires.
Asked how Rueben could have known what to look out for, Mr Jackson said: ‘‘I’ve got no idea, I suppose it’s just common sense .... do the right thing and look out I suppose.’’
He agreed he thought the work was so simple no training was needed and said you ‘‘haven’t got to have a degree’’ to complete it.
Arrow Property Maintenance was removed from the federal government’s Home Insurance Program (HIP) after Rueben’s death and subsequently fined $135,000 for breaching safety standards.The company is now in liquidation.
Mr Jackson told the court it was common practice in the industry to leave the power on at a house when installing insulation.
He said signing up to the Home Insulation Program had been surprisingly easy and he and Arrow co-director Chris Jackson were told by someone from the scheme after they signed on to ‘‘go make money while the sun shines’’.
Mr Jackson said he couldn’t remember seeing any of several federal and state government safety guideline notices sent to home insulation installers prior to Rueben’s death.
Earlier, Rockhampton workplace health and safety investigator Sara Francis told the court according to her probe Arrow had not provided Rueben or two other workers accompanying him with any safety gear apart from sunscreen.
Matthew James Fuller, 25 and Mitchell Scott Sweeney, 22, also died while working on the same insulation program in 2009 and 2010, when they shot metal staples into live electrical cables.
The inquest will run for the rest of the week, with a further three days set down in early May.