WorkCover safety alert on mobile plant operating near overhead power lines

WorkCover has issued a safety alert to remind businesses, industry and workers of the dangers of operating mobile plant near energised overhead power lines.

NSW electricity supply authorities and WorkCover NSW continue to receive notifications of incidents where mobile plants have come into contact with overhead power lines. WorkCover data revealed that a total of 55 incidents have been reported where cranes, machinery and other mobile plant have come into contact with power lines. These incidents are the result of a failure to identify the risk of overhead power lines and failure to implement a safe system of work, including the maintenance of safe approach distances from the energised power lines.

WorkCover NSW recommends workers and employers to 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 the above 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 powerlines – LOOK UP AND LIVE.

The following actions must be taken upon contact with live overhead power line:

  • Try not to panic. Remain calm and stay in the vehicle. Don’t risk being electrocuted by attempting to leave the vehicle.
  • Advise anyone near the incident site to stay at least eight metres away from the vehicle or any fallen power lines.
  • Contact the local electricity supply authority to switch the power off and call the emergency services – 000 – to report the life threatening situation.
  • If you’re not going to create another hazard to yourself or others, make an attempt to break the vehicle’s contact with the power line.
  • If you must leave the vehicle because of a fire or other life threatening situation, jump clear to ensure that you don’t have contact with the vehicle and the ground at the same time. When you jump clear, ensure that you land with your feet together and then continue to jump or shuffle with your feet together until you are at least eight metres clear of the vehicle, power lines or anything in contact with the vehicle or power lines.
  • Untrained or unequipped persons should not attempt to rescue a person who has received an electric shock. Secondary deaths often occur when those who are trying to help such people become electrocuted themselves. If the vehicle is immobilised, ensure that the power supply has been switched off and the incident site has been made safe before giving assistance.

More information can be found on WorkCover NSW website.


OHS News

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