A Northpower worker has been awarded $30,000 after he suffered serious burns in an electrical arc flash while working at a Wellington substation.

Northpower has accepted responsibility for its part in the incident which left a trainee electrician suffering second degree burns after working on live equipment.

In May 2014, Wellington Electricity engaged Northpower to carry out maintenance work on roadside transformers at Karori, Wellington. Two Northpower employees were working on the job when a bracket fell onto live contacts, causing an electrical short and a flashover.

The heat was so severe the injured man's trousers melted on his legs. He told the Wellington District Court last week he had pulled a transformer off a panel, and was then hit by the arc flash and flames.


Both Northpower and Wellington Electricity Lines Ltd were charged under the Electricity Act 1992 for causing or permitting work to be done in a manner dangerous to life. They both pleaded guilty to the charges laid by WorkSafe.

The electrician, who was 20 when the accident occurred, described in a statement in court the pain, trauma and ongoing effects of the incident.

He spent two weeks in a specialist burns unit and several months having skin grafts, wearing compression bandages, regaining some lost mobility and dealing with scars to his face, legs and buttocks.

Judge Jan-Marie Doogue ruled that the companies' failures included: a work plan that lacked clear instructions to prompt workers to stop if they encountered increased risks or conditions; not shutting off the power before work was undertaken; and not documenting hazard assessments.

The Wellington incident led to immediate changes in Northpower's work practices, including a new approach to planning and risk assessment, spokesman Steve McMillan said.

''Northpower has undertaken a thorough investigation of the incident and is deeply regretful of the injury sustained to our employee,'' Mr McMillan said. ''Corrective actions
have been put in place to reduce the risk of this type of event occurring again.''

The two companies had previously voluntarily paid the worker $20,000 following a restorative justice hearing. Wellington Electricity was ordered by the court to pay a further $4030 and Northpower a further $6000 to the worker, bringing total reparations to him to $30,030.