Delta Utility Services Ltd has upgraded its work
practices since the death of Alexandra lineman Roger Allan
Steel to ''make sure we never have another workmate in this
position again'', the company said yesterday.
The inquest into the death of Mr Steel (63) at Millers Flat
on December 9, 2010, was held on October 26 last year and
Otago Southland coroner David Crerar released his finding
Mr Steel was working on his own, along the Millennium Track,
and was attached to a power pole with a safety harness. The
pole toppled over and he fell more than 20m, receiving
injuries which were ''immediately and inevitably lethal'', Mr
Crerar found. Although it appeared he had taken the
appropriate action in isolating the 240-volt line, the power
lines became ''live'' as the pole fell and connected with
higher voltage lines nearby. Mr Steel received electrical
burns which could have been debilitating or fatal, the
Delta was prosecuted under the Health and Safety in
Employment Act and was fined $75,000 in the Alexandra
District Court in October 2011 after pleading guilty to a
charge of failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the
safety of its employees while at work. The charge was laid by
the then Labour Department, after investigating Mr Steel's
death. Mr Crerar made four recommendations to Delta about
work practices and asked for his findings to be forwarded to
the Electrical Engineers Association for ''wider distribution
through the electrical supply industry''.
The pole which fell had earlier been placed by a Delta work
gang, in the footing of the pole it replaced. After the work
was inspected, it was recognised the pole was unsafe and its
deficiencies were reported to a staff member. The hazard
identification procedure adopted by Delta and its employees
was unsuitable and needed to be improved, he said.
''There was sufficient information available at all times to
show that pole 54520 was unsafe in its placement.''
Delta chief executive Grady Cameron said the company deeply
regretted Mr Steel's death ''and the loss of a well-liked and
''As the coroner noted, Delta has reviewed and made
enhancements to our work practices. We wanted to make sure
that we never have another workmate in this position again,''
Mr Cameron said. Mr Crerar recommended lines staff should
work in pairs on site.
''Two minds are better than one. Another worker may have
identified the hazard the pole presented when such hazard was
not noticed by Roger Steel,'' Mr Crerar said.
He also recommended all ''suspect'' power poles should be
red-tagged. Evidence was given that potentially unsafe wooden
poles were given a red tag but it was harder to attach a red
tag to a concrete pole.
Mr Cameron said Delta had taken remedial action including
red-tagging all poles deemed unsafe to climb, the
introduction of systems to quickly locate vehicles and
employees wherever they were working and had also made
changes to work instruction forms.
It was reviewing the implication of the ''working in pairs''
recommendation with the wider electrical supply industry, he