An apprentice electrician has told the Mail of the day he nearly from an electric shock that left him unresponsive and without a pulse while working at a property in Mandurah.
The now 21-year-old man, who chose not to be identified for this story, said he was suffering extreme post-traumatic stress two years after the January 2020 incident.
"My whole life has been changed by this one day," he told the Mail this week.
"I still suffer with PTSD, I have nightmares, I'm anxious a lot and I avoid using powerpoints or plugging anything in at all.
"I have to turn light switches on with the back of my hand, anything to do with electricity makes me really anxious. I have lots of triggers."
The young local said he had always enjoyed hands-on learning at school, and had been excited to take on an electrical apprenticeship after completing work experience in the field.
"I loved the sense of job satisfaction, it was a good, solid career.
"Looking back on that day now, I'm a bit angry, and disappointed. That was all taken away from me in one second."
I've had this extremely horrific thing happen... You don't really have a chance to escape the situation, it's very hard to move on.
Details of the incident were heard at Mandurah Magistrates Court following Building and Energy's prosecution of the apprentice's employer, Xtra Solutions trading as Xtra Electrical.
The Halls Head company was fined a total of $21,500 and ordered to pay costs of $343.50 after pleading guilty to two offences under WA's Electricity Licensing Regulations.
The court heard that the second-year apprentice and his supervising electrical worker attended a commercial premises to disconnect and remove an electric hot water unit.
While on a phone call, the supervising electrician directed the 19-year-old towards a kitchen cabinet where the younger man started to cut and disconnect the wiring on the hot water unit inside, according to the department release.
Shortly after, the apprentice received a shock of up to 240 volts and he was unable to let go of the electrified cable for at least 30 seconds.
The supervising electrician and property tenant pulled him away from the cabinet area and began CPR.
Paramedics arrived within seven minutes and found the apprentice had stopped breathing and had no pulse, but fortunately they were able to resuscitate him with a defibrillator.
"I put the whole day down to luck," the apprentice told the Mail. "There were seven minutes where I was technically gone, I am so, so lucky that the defibrillator was able to bring me back."
A Building and Energy investigation found a circuit breaker that supplied power to cabling in the cabinet was left on during the work, resulting in some cables remaining energised or "live".
Xtra Solutions was fined $20,000 for ineffective supervision because the supervising electrician failed to adequately isolate relevant parts of the electrical installation prior to the work, to ensure the apprentice would not come into contact with live components, according to the department release.
The company was also fined $1,500 because the apprentice did not hold an electrician training licence, which was required for the work he carried out at the property.
The apprentice, who immediately left the industry after the incident, told the Mail he did not believe the penalty would deter negligence by the industry in the future.
"A fine of $21,500 is extremely light, in my opinion," he said.
The death of a tradesman at a Curtin University work site in October 2020 led to a change in the state's industrial manslaughter laws, with a bill passed to enforce a maximum jail term of 20 years for workplace deaths.
Magistrate Leanne Atkins said the apprentice had been "brought back, in effect, from the dead," according to the release.
Ms Atkins added that electricians and electrical companies should note the significant penalties imposed for endangering a person by failing to supervise.
Having survived the fateful day, the apprentice told the Mail he had found himself at the mercy of a complicated workers compensation system.
"It's not set up well for the victims at all. I've had this extremely horrific thing happen to me, and I'm forced to justify over and over why I'm unable to do basic, simple things in my everyday life.
"You don't really have a chance to escape the situation, it's very hard to move on. Since the day of the incident my life has been pretty bad."
WA Director of Energy Safety, Saj Abdoolakhan said the case was a confronting reminder of why rules and responsibilities are in place when working with electrical apprentices.
"This incident could have easily been a tragedy for a young man at the start of his career," he said.
"These laws are in place to ensure employers do the right thing by their apprentices and keep them safe. It is unacceptable for an employer to place a trainee in such a dangerous situation by failing to ensure the installation was not live, as required by law.
"I urge the industry to ensure they isolate and test all electrical installations to verify they are properly de-energised prior to anyone working on them."
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