Powerline incidents prompt safety warning

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Friday, 14 May, 2021 - 12:30
Industry news
National News

WorkSafe Victoria is urging employers operating mobile machinery near overhead powerlines to put safety first following a spate of electric shock incidents and near misses.

Since November 2020, one worker has died and a number of others were taken to hospital with serious injuries after their machinery came into contact with powerlines.

A 54-year-old construction worker was recently taken to hospital in a critical condition following an electric shock when the arm of the excavator on his truck struck powerlines at Pakenham.

Two construction workers were also injured, one critically, when a crane arm struck live 22kV lines at Dromana.

There were another two incidents involving the farming and transport industries, in which a tipper truck driver was taken to hospital in a serious condition after his truck hit a high voltage conductor at Narracan, near Moe.

A 72-year farmer was also airlifted to hospital after the auger he was moving with a forklift touched powerlines, resulting in serious injuries at Harston near Shepparton.

A farmhand also died late last year while using a telehandler to move hay bales when a raised attachment hit powerlines.

There was also a serious incident when the Princes Highway was shut at Panmure due to powerlines being pulled down onto the road by a dump truck.

Investigations into six of the seven incidents are ongoing.

WorkSafe Victoria executive director of health and safety Julie Nielsen said no matter the situation, care had to be taken when using machinery near electrical wires.

“Electrocution can occur in just moments and if an electric shock doesn’t kill, injuries can be severe and life-long,” Nielsen said.

“It doesn’t matter whether you are a large employer in construction, transport or a sole farm operator, all duty holders should review their systems of work when operating near overhead powerlines.

“Make sure you assess the environment you are operating machinery in and keep clear of live electrical cables because WorkSafe will not hesitate to prosecute duty holders that fail to protect workers.”

In September 2020, a quarry at Maude was convicted and fined $35,000 after a worker luckily escaped injury when his excavator contacted powerlines.

WorkSafe inspectors found there were no protective barriers or warning devices to prevent the incident from occurring.