History: Nest of Traitors
Interview: A Nation of Hope
Unions: National Focus
Safety: The Shocking Truth
Tribute: A Comrade Departed
History: Working Bees
Education: The Big Picture
International: Static Labour
Economics: Budget And Fudge It
Technology: Google and Campaigning
Review: Secretary With A Difference
Poetry: The Minimale
Satire: Howard Calls for Senate to be Replaced by Clap-O-Meter
The Locker Room
To the Victors The Spoils
The Story in General
Thinking of America
The Shocking Truth
Friday, March 26 1999, dawns bright and clear in the sleepy Wollongong suburb of Fairy Meadow. Adrian Ware, 24, says goodbye to wife Raelene and revs up the trusty Hyundai for the 60 minute drive to Integral Energy's Hoxton Park base. Life is good.
Four and a half hours later, at around 10.30am, bright and clear has given way to stinking hot in Sydney's breathless west. Ware is up a pole in Fifteenth Ave, West Hoxton, but not for long.
"One minute I was up the pole and the next thing I was at the base of it. I didn't know what was going on, all I can is remember is people yelling - 'keep still, keep still' and I didn't know why," he recalls.
"Then the paramedics arrive and I'm being loaded into an ambulance. I asked one of the paramedics what happened and he said 'you've been electrocuted.'
I said 'oh shit' and that was it, I must have passed out again.
"I don't remember any of the pain, they dosed me up on morphine but the pain afterwards was ... horrific."
Afterwards is a flexible concept. The first part was seven weeks in hospitals. Two days at Liverpool; 12 in Concorde's intensive care unit fighting for his life; five weeks in the Burns Unit, then another two days of rehab at Prince Henry, La Perouse.
Technically, according to court documents, what happened at Hoxton West that day was this: while workmate, Alan Milsom, was disconnecting a low voltage cable, the tie wire at an adjacent pole, having been released created rotation of the cross arm. The tie wire broke, flicking up into live high voltage conductors, resulting in the C-phase wire coming in conduct with the high voltage roadside conductor at four different places.
Ware is more succinct. "Being on a concrete pole was the worst situation to be in because all the attachments are metal. Up there, there is nowhere to go. I completed the circuit to earth.
"I've been through it over and over. The only thing we did wrong that day was turning up to work and not taking a sickie."
Not so Integral Energy, after being fined $160,000 for OH&S breaches, the Supreme Court ordered it to cough up another $3.5 million in damages to injured workers.
But Ware doesn't feel like a winner, far from it. He's had more operations than he can count and still faces more. He lost his right arm, from the elbow down, suffered severe cardiac dysfunction, has lifelong scarring across his body, and faces ongoing problems with shoulders, chest, hand, knee and leg.
Weekend rounds of golf with the in-laws are a thing of the past as are basketball, archery, bush walking, body boarding and even his favourite haunt, Towradgi Beach.
"I went back once," he explained, "but it just felt really uncomfortable. I could feel everyone staring at me. Besides, I've got to keep the scarring out of the sun."
He can no longer do renovations on the couple's home, pursue the fidgety end of his electronics hobby or work on the family car. His parents, or father in law, come around to do odd jobs and mow the lawns. He can't bath his son, Riley, born one year ago, and doesn't expect to be able to change employment.
Operating his prosthetic forearm, featuring a grip five times stronger than that exerted by your standard human, has been an experience in itself. The electronics manager has taught himself to write left handed but that's not the half of it.
Things change when your arm takes more notice of random electro magnetic fields than your own brain, as he discovered at his grandmother's one afternoon.
Ware had poured himself a coke and clamped the glass in his right hand when someone switched on the television, provoking the arm into a half rotation that tipped fizzy drink all over the carpet.
Then, walking through a shopping mall, the limb took instructions from a flourescent tube, clasping his left wrist in a vice-like grip. Ware found himself seeking a spot out of range of electronic fields, not all that easy in a modern arcade, so he could unhand himself.
"I don't know if it has made me any smarter but it has made me think a lot more," he says. "There are so many frustrations and, unfortunately, I take most of them out on Raelene which is unfair. She's been a rock through the whole thing, supported me from the start and always been positive."
His parents, her family, the ETU, former workmate Milsom, lawyer Terry Goldberg, health professionals and even Integral Energy, after a shaky start, have helped him start over.
Integral were none too popular in the Ware household when they informed Raelene of the accident by playing down its seriousness. Four days later, she got her own shock, when doctors urged her to return to Concord Hospital because her husband might not survive.
Then "one particular individual" made it difficult for him to go back to work "but the union sorted that out and it has been good ever since.
"I like my job, it is what I was actually studying to do but I don't know what would happen if the industry was ever privatised, that might be a different story," he says.
Once he was back, at Integral's Shellharbour base, company OH&S officer Lyle Gadsten did everything in his power to ease the transition.
Ware keeps in regular contact with Milsom, who has since retired, swapping notes on rehab and their respective court cases.
He doesn't court publicity, far from it, he wants to be left alone to build a new life with Raelene and Riley. He did this interview for one reason and one alone. He wants everyone in the industry to take every possible precaution, even when others might think they are over-cautious.
"Be aware, check everything twice and if you are slightly uncertain make sure you ask questions," he urges. "The risks are too great."
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