Friday, July 5th, 2013
“Today’s findings by the coroner sadly confirms that the death of these three young people in Queensland – and most likely a fourth in NSW, could have been avoided,” says James Tinslay, NECA CEO.  “At the time that this initiative was announced, NECA was the first body to advise the Government of the potential dangers of such a program being rolled out without the appropriate safety considerations.  That advice was ignored with huge personal loss,” he added.

“The Government and the community at large still greatly underestimate the dangers of electricity in the home.  Installing thermal insulation in the proximity of electrical wiring requires training and specialist expertise and the lack of regard for this had devastating results,” added Tinslay.  “The outcome of this case, again, underlines the need for the Government, its Agencies and Regulators to consult industry early, and genuinely, on electrical safety issues to avoid endangering workers’ and the community as a whole.”


Directors and supervisors of ceiling insulation businesses that employed three young Queenslanders who were electrocuted in 2009 and 2010 could face Workplace Safety charges.

Rueben Kelly Barnes, 16, Matthew James Fuller 25, and Mitchell Scott Sweeney 22, were electrocuted while installing foil insulation in Queensland homes as part of the federal government’s $2.45 billion Home Insulation Program.

State Coroner Michael Barnes handed down his findings into the deaths on Thursday 4 July 2013.  He made it clear that the program was rolled out far too quickly and that the employees had clearly not received adequate training for the job they were expected to carry out.

"The dangers should have been foreseen before three people died in Queensland and a fourth in New South Wales," he said.  He also went on to say that subcontractors had used metal staples instead of plastic staples – possibly because the installers found metal staples “faster and easier to use”.

Mr Barnes also highlighted that there had still not been an electrical safety review of ceiling insulation work in Queensland.  He ordered that Safe Work Queensland conduct an urgent review.  He also ordered an immediate large scale public relations campaign to warn householders of the electrical dangers inside roof cavities.

The coroner also found that the younger a person is, the more the responsibility shifts to an employer to ensure their safety at work.  And that is not negated by any assertion that the person is a subcontractor rather than a straight employee.


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Ian Richardson – President

P: 02 9888 3081


Home Insulation/Electrical/Thermal/Pink Batts/NECA



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