Ken recently shared his story with Townsville based SafetyCulture employees who are working to improve workplace safety and quality through innovative technology solutions.

The accident

The day – a Friday - had started so well. Ken’s ten week old daughter slept through the night for the first time, and Ken and his wife made plans to attend the night markets that evening.

Those happy plans were thrown into turmoil, as Ken’s family and medical staff watched and waited in the critical first hours and days after his injury.

Ken was part of a work crew performing maintenance on Ergon’s electricity network. He was working on a transformer in Townsville. A flashover occurred and a fireball ignited his clothes and his body.

Hit with 11,000 volts and his safety glasses melting to his face, Ken remained conscious as colleagues doused him with iced water, and then laid him under a hose until emergency crews arrived.

Recovery takes time

In hospital, Ken endured regular burns baths and treatment administered under heavy pain medication.

Ken spent around two months in hospital before returning home where he continued to undergo regular burns treatment. Then came further surgery and pressure garments worn for the next 18 months.

Initially working several hours a day, Ken progressively built up to full days and took on leadership of a team. Driven to prove he was still capable of hard work, there were physical and emotional challenges.

Ken Feltham caught up with SafetyCulture CEO Luke Anear during a visit to discuss workplace injury. (Image courtesy of SafetyCulture)


Fifteen years on, and still working with Ergon Energy, Ken reflects that pleasingly a lot has changed in workplaces. “There’s been a significant culture shift and improved focus on safety across industries generally,” Ken says.

Ken has also been involved in a number of incident investigations since his own injury.

“There’s always something that could have been done differently,” Ken says. “Safety needs to be top of mind at all times.”

At Ergon, all employees from leaders through to young apprentices, are encouraged to speak up and be active in safety conversations, in identifying risks and hazards, and driving improvement.

“Overall, I think Ergon is doing very well in driving safety and keeping it at the forefront. It’s something that we need to keep doing, and always be working on.”

The costs of not doing it are simply too great.

“I don’t ever want anyone to go through what I went through and what my family went through,” Ken explains. “You go to work to earn money to live. You don’t expect to go to work and not come home. Going home injured – we’ve got to stop that.”

“To go through it and sit with a family. It drives home you’ve got to stop it happening. You can’t have people getting hurt.”