WorkCover NSW along with electricity supply authorities have issued a reminder to cotton growers of the potential dangers arising when operating mobile plant near energised overhead power lines.
Since July 2011 there have been a total of 55 incidents reported where cranes, machinery and other mobile plant have come into contact with power lines. Some of the incidents reported include:
• A mobile crane operator struck a 11kV power line when unloading a truck.
• A truck driver raised a tipper and struck a 11kV power line.
• An excavator boom struck a 11kV power line.
• A low loader struck low voltage overhead power lines.
• A wheat harvester struck power lines, which resulted in a fire that engulfed the machine.
WorkCover says some of the contributing factors in each of these incidents include a failure to identify the hazard of overhead power lines along with the failure to implement a safe system of work, including the maintenance of safe approach distances from the energised
The Authority says that clearly contact with overhead power lines is a serious risk that can result in electrocution, electric shock or burns. Some of the other risks includes fires and explosions that may immobilise mobile plant involved in work.
Anyone working near or under energised overhead power lines and associated electrical apparatus should do the following before commencing work.
• Clearly identify the height and voltage of high and low voltage power lines, including overhead service lines to buildings.
• Conduct a risk assessment of the proposed work.
• If necessary, consult with the relevant electricity supply authority about the work and comply with any special conditions imposed by them.
• Eliminate the risk by arranging for the electricity supply authority to isolate the electricity supply for the duration of the work.
• If the risk cannot be eliminated, separate the electrical hazard from the mobile plant and the workers by ensuring the following approach distances are maintained:
Up to 132,000 volts – 3 metres
Between 132,000 volts and 330,000 volts – 6 metres
Above 330,000 volts – 8 metres.
Note: when applying the above approach distances, it is important to take into account the ‘sag and swing’ of the powerlines, the movement of the mobile plant and the strength of the wind, as well as possible operator error or equipment malfunction.
• Ensure a safety observer is used whenever a mobile plant is in motion and is likely to come closer than these approach distances.
• Ensure an effective communication system is in place for the workers performing the work.
Remember the safe work procedure when working near overhead power lines – LOOK UP AND LIVE.
For more information visit workcover.nsw.gov.au or phone 13 10 50.
• NSW Electricity Supply Authorities – emergency contact numbers:
Ausgrid 13 13 88
Endeavour Energy 13 10 03
Essential Energy 13 20 80