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Electrical – Cut branch falls onto LV conductors

Background

In August 2021 a member of the community was pruning a tree located on the nature strip in front of a residential property in Tatura.

They were removing a branch from the nature strip tree, which was located adjacent to uninsulated low voltage (LV) electricity conductors; the cut branch fell in an uncontrolled manner onto the LV conductors.

The fallen branch caused two conductors to break and the operation of the electricity network protection system.

This 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 but electricity supply was disrupted to nearby properties.

Cut branch falls onto LV conductors

Investigation Findings

ESV conducted an investigation of this incident and found:

  • The person that cut the vegetation failed to maintain the minimum clearances for vegetation management work near protected aerial lines
  • The person that cut the vegetation did not identify and outline control measures to ensure the work could be completed safely
  • The cutting methods used did not allow for appropriate control of the tree that fell and contacted the LV conductors

ESV’s view is the combination of these failures means the person that cut the vegetation did not comply with the Electricity Safety (General) Regulations 2019, constituting a breach of Electricity Safety legislation; heavy penalties may be applied to such breaches.

Key Lessons

  • Ensure all site hazards are identified and actions to control the hazards are implemented
  • Ensure personnel are qualified and suitably experienced for the task being undertaken
  • Always maintain “No go Zone” clearances when undertaking private works in the vicinity of live electrical apparatus
  • Regularly reassess each worksite for hazards when completing vegetation management work near electric lines
  • When planning vegetation management work ensure you consider the minimum clearance distances you must keep any cleared vegetation away from electric lines

Important information

  • Failing to identify hazards at the work site will place workers at risk of serious personal injury, or in the worst circumstance electrocution
  • Ensure each work site is assessed for hazards and controls are implemented to manage risks and ensure compliance with electricity safety regulations
  • Working near live high or low voltage electric lines are 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 community member failed to maintain the minimum clearances from the electric line as required by the Electricity Safety (General) Regulations. Failing to maintain the minimum clearance is a breach of the regulations.

It is also ESV’s view that the community member interfered with protected infrastructure, which is a breach of the Electricity Safety (General) Regulations.

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.