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Spate of incidents spark reminder of the dangers of working near powerlines

The importance of maintaining exclusion zones around powerlines is a well understood safety principle, but tragically, mistakes are still made across a number of industries.

In one such case, as recently reported in ABC News, a young farm worker was using a telehandler to stack hay bales on a property in 2020 when the machinery came into contact with overhead powerlines. The worker died as a result of the electric shock and the operator of the feedlot, Harmony Operations Australia, has been charged with breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic).

The prosecution comes at a time when further serious incidents are occurring around Australia, including in September 2022, when a worker died after the metal frame that he was holding on a construction site in Queensland appeared to contact a high-voltage overhead powerline where a shed was being built. Investigations to date indicate that the metal frame struck a powerline while it was being moved onto the site by a mobile crane, and when the worker was attempting to move the frame so that it would not hit a nearby vehicle.

And in the ACT, a recent incident involved an electrical shock to a worker undertaking facia replacement near powerlines which were connected to a residential property. The worker’s head apparently came into contact with exposed wires from the poor conditioned powerlines when he was working from a scaffold deck. The shock caused him to be thrown off the scaffold deck, falling to the ground unconscious.

These incidents are tragic reminders of the importance of vigilance when undertaking any work near powerlines. De-energising powerlines or enforcing effective exclusive zones is critical to ensure the safety of workers.

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