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Electrical – Branch contacts and breaks insulated Low Voltage electric line

Background

Vegetation management workers employed by a vegetation management contracting company were pruning a nature strip tree on behalf of a municipal council. The work was being performed from an Elevated Work Platform (EWP) and a Safety Observer was being used for this work.

One of the vegetation management workers was working aloft pruning vegetation from an EWP. The other vegetation management worker was acting as a Safety Observer. An insulated Low Voltage (LV) was located in the vicinity of the tree being pruned.

The EWP Operator cut a branch which fell in an uncontrolled manner contacting the LV conductor causing it to break and fall to the ground.

The incident created an unsafe electrical situation that had the potential to cause property damage, serious personal injury or in the worst circumstance an electrocution. Fortunately, no one was injured.

The incident was reported to the municipal council and to Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) by the contractor.

Investigation Findings

ESV conducted an investigation of this incident and found:

  • The EWP Operator failed to control the branch being cut as required by the Electricity Safety (General) Regulations 2019, constituting a breach of Electricity Safety legislation.
  • The Safety Observer did not hold training certificates that meet the requirements of the ESV training approval statement for a qualified worker working from an EWP, or as a Safety Observer.
  • The Safety Observer failed in their obligations as required by the ESV Electrical Safety Rules for Vegetation Management Work near Overhead Powerlines by Non-Electrical Workers.
  • The hazard assessment undertaken at the site was not effective in identification and control of workplace hazards to ensure that the work can be performed safely.

ESV’s view is that the combination of these failures means the crew members did not comply with the Regulations, constituting a breach of Electricity Safety legislation; heavy penalties may be applied to such breaches.

Key Lessons

  • Ensure all crew members hold training certificates that meet the requirements of the ESV training approval statement for a qualified worker working from an EWP or as a Safety Observer
  • Ensure all site hazards are identified and actions to control the hazards are implemented.
  • Always maintain appropriate Safe Approach Distances when undertaking works in the vicinity of live electrical apparatus.
  • Regularly reassess each worksite for hazards when completing electric line clearance work.

Important information

  • Failing to identify hazards at the work site will place workers and possibly the community at risk of serious personal injury or in the worst circumstance, electrocution
  • Ensure each individual work site is assessed for hazards and controls are implemented to manage risks
  • When a qualified vegetation management worker is completing vegetation management works on behalf of a municipal council they must comply with the ESV Electrical Safety Rules for vegetation management work near overhead powerlines by non-electrical workers.
  • Working near live high and low voltage electric lines is equally dangerous. A vegetation management worker was electrocuted in February 2019 when they made contact with uninsulated low voltage electric lines.

Enforcement outcomes

Having completed its investigation of this incident it is ESV’s view that;

  • The EWP Operator failed to ensure that all workplace hazards were identified and controlled prior to the commencement of works, which led to a branch falling in an uncontrolled manner and damaging an insulated LV conductor.
  • The Safety Observer failed in their obligations as required by the ESV Electrical Safety Rules for Vegetation Management Work near Overhead Powerlines by Non-Electrical Workers.

ESV may choose to prosecute or take other enforcement action where it considers a breach of the Electricity Safety Act 1998 or Electricity Safety Regulations has occurred.

Who we are

We are Victoria’s independent safety regulator for electricity, gas and pipelines.

Our role is to ensure that Victorian gas and electricity industries are safe and meet community expectations. We are also responsible for licensing and registering electricians, and educating the community about energy safety.

More information is available on the Energy Safe Victoria website: www.esv.vic.gov.au