Energy Australia Yallourn charges offer overdue justice for Graeme Edwards

Published: 16 Dec 2021

WorkSafe Victoria’s decision to charge Energy Australia Yallourn over the death of power station operator Graeme Edwards in 2018 is an overdue opportunity for justice for Graeme, his family and workmates. 

WorkSafe announced yesterday that it would charge Energy Australia with three breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act over failures to provide a safe place of work, safe systems of work and adequate information and instruction. 

Victorian District Secretary Geoff Dyke said that it was a relief that WorkSafe’s initial decision last year not to lay charges had been reversed after a review by the Department of Public Prosecutions. 

“Graeme’s family, his workmates at Yallourn and across the Victorian power industry were devastated by his death,” said Mr Dyke. “Energy Australia has admitted the tragedy was due to safety failures at the plant and in no way due to unsafe work practices by Graeme, who was an experienced, committed, model employee.” 

Graeme was killed on 12 November 2018, when an arc flash occurred while he was installing a high voltage circuit breaker, which should have been a routine maintenance task.

It was important for workers to see Energy Australia held to account over the fatality to restore confidence in safety laws meant to protect them, said Mr Dyke. 

“The OHS Act is there to make sure that workers return safely home at the end of their shift. Tragically, there was a failure to keep Graeme safe while he was performing essential work for the community. 

“WorkSafe Australia needs to do its job and hold Energy Australia to account for what went so terribly wrong at Yallourn power station on 12 November 2018. 

“Graeme was a valuable and much-loved member of his family, community and our Union and he continues to be sadly missed.” 

The charges are an important reminder to Energy Australia that they must not let safety standards slip as the Yallourn power station heads towards its scheduled 2028 closure.