Faulty Service Clamp Kills

An inquest will be held over three days in October 2021 into the electrocution of an 11-year-old boy from a faulty service clamp in a remote Northern Territory community.

The boy died on October 29 last year after climbing into a secured external section of a house in Gunbalanya, 240 kilometres east of Darwin.

Inspectors from the NT Worksafe examined the Gunbalanya house on 9th November after assistance was sought by the police. WorkSafe posted a safety alert on its website regarding the electrical hazards at the Gunbalanya house about three weeks after the death, on 23rd November.

A ‘flash brief’ stated “The initial examination identified some damage to Power Water Corporation infrastructure exterior to the house”. The brief also stated that the boy’s family had vacated the property following the death, and that an electrical contractor had disconnected the power.

Another ‘flash brief’ issued on the same day the public safety alert was issued noted the inspectors’ initial examination had found “neither the roof nor the secured area were effectively earthed”.

There was also concern expressed by the union that other properties could have had similar electrical hazards, putting more lives at risk and that Worksafe failed to act quickly enough.

The service line had damaged insulation which made contact with the metallic parts of service clamp which was in contact with the roof and subsequently energised the entire roof.

Worksafe issued an “improvement notice” to the organisation that owned the property to ensure all electrical defects were fixed and ordered the Power and Water Corporation to check thousands of other properties in remote and urban parts of the NT for similar problems. No similar problems had been identified at more than 9,600 properties with 99.3% of services showing no signs of insulation degradation.

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