Three incidents spark concern about working under powerlines

Tuesday, 11 May, 2021

Three incidents spark concern about working under powerlines

Three serious incidents in regional Victoria throughout April have Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) Commission Chairperson Marnie Williams pleading for machinery operators to take more care when working near overhead powerlines.

On 12 April a crane truck offloading building material connected with powerlines in Dromana, with the crane arm making contact with 22 kV lines and injuring two men. 

On 27 April a man suffered a severe electric shock and was left in a critical condition after a grain auger hit powerlines in Harston. The auger was being towed by a forklift the man was standing on when it hit one of the bare overhead powerlines. A second person driving the forklift received a shock but did not require treatment. 

In a third incident, on 30 April a tip truck hit a high-voltage conductor at Trafalgar South, resulting in hospitalisation for the driver.

The three incidents are all being investigated by ESV and WorkSafe. 

“To have three in the space of 18 days is deeply concerning,” Williams said.

“Anyone operating machinery such as cranes, crane trucks and tipper trucks must look up because incidents like these are preventable if operators of machinery take the proper precautions. 

“They need to be aware of powerlines — particularly in rural and regional areas, where single bare powerlines are often hard to see.

“You only need to see the consequences from these three incidents, which have all caused serious injuries and in some other cases people have died.”

ESV is unable to comment on the specifics of these incidents as they are still being investigated.

In late 2020, a farmworker was killed when the extendable boom on the telehandler he was operating came into contact with overhead powerlines in Gerung Gerung, in north-western Victoria.

The Look Up and Live campaign has been running for almost 10 years. It calls on workers and operators of such machinery to be aware of powerlines and plan how to safely undertake their work before they begin.

ESV recommends the following:

  • Understand No Go Zones. These include rules and distances for safety clearances near overhead powerlines. People and equipment working anywhere near powerlines need to understand the No Go Zone requirements to stay safe and away from live powerlines
  • Monitor weather conditions closely — powerlines can sag in extreme heat and sway in strong winds.
  • Remember that powerlines are more difficult to see at dawn and dusk.
  • Remember that electricity can jump across air gaps. 

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