Two Victorian farmers have died after being electrocuted doing their own electrical maintenance work.
In late 2015, a 75-year-old man was electrocuted while trying to fix a submersible pump on a property at Moorabool near Geelong. In January 2016 a 21-year-old farmer from Yarroweh in northern Victoria was electrocuted while attending to a pump in a drainage pit.
These tragic, preventable deaths highlight the problem of farmers and rural workers performing electrical work they are not qualified to do.
Doing your own electrical work is not only illegal it can also be fatal. Electrical work must always be done by a licensed electrician.
Energy Safe Victoria has launched a new campaign called DIY=DIE to urge farmers and rural workers to never perform their own electrical work. The message is simple: don’t die trying to be an electrician.
Energy Safe Victoria is aware that financial pressures can mean many farmers work long hours or potentially cut corners with maintenance.
We know that farmers are adept at a range of things but when it comes to electrical work it’s just not worth the risk. Always call in a licensed electrician, no matter how remote the property or how simple the job appears to be.
To minimise risk, farmers should carefully manage electrical installations and equipment and keep it in good working order.
EVS recommends that farmers:
- Never ignore minor shocks and tingles because these can be signs of a bigger electrical problem
- Turn off water pumps before entering the water and touching or checking the equipment
- Don’t try to fix submersible pumps yourself because electricity and water is a deadly combination
- Don’t use oversize fuse wiring
- Never use broken power tools or faulty extension cords
Don’t become another DIY statistic – make safety the number one priority on your farm and don’t take shortcuts that could cost you your life. Always call in a licensed electrician, no matter how small the job.
Electrical safety on the farm
- Look out for deteriorating and aged electricity wiring and installation in farm sheds, outbuildings and in some farm houses.
- Don’t overuse extension leads and powerboards.
- Be aware of damage to fuse boards that have not been repaired.
- Connecting the earthing on electric fence units to farm buildings is a very dangerous practice that can explain why electric shocks are received from taps in farm properties.
- Monitor the condition of private overhead lines. Many are left in a dangerous condition because of sagging lines, rotten poles, damaged cross arms, a general lack of maintenance, and trees and vegetation growing across the lines or in close vicinity.
ESV’s tips for staying safe around powerlines
- SWER powerlines are common in rural areas and are often hard to see as there is only one thin wire and the poles can be hundreds of metres apart.
- SWER lines operate at 12,700 volts and any contact with the line may be fatal or cause serious, permanent injuries.
- All overhead powerlines can sag and sway with temperature changes and electrical load and can also sway in the wind. Be aware that single powerlines can be particularly difficult to see at dawn and dusk.
- When working near overhead powerlines always look up and live.
- Make sure you understand the No Go Zone guidelines. Always ensure that you, and any object that is being used, is at least 3m away from the line.
- Identify all lines on your property and clearly mark their position on the fences or on posts near or under the line to help highlight their location.
- Display Look up and live stickers on any machinery or equipment that is raised overhead.
- If an accident does occur with a powerline, keep at least 10 metres away from any victims and do not attempt to provide assistance or you may also be electrocuted. Call 000 or your local electricity distribution company for emergency assistance.
- Obtain a copy of the No Go Zone rules from www.esv.vic.gov.au
Protect yourself from carbon monoxide, the silent killer
Energy Safe Victoria recommends having gas heating appliances serviced a minimum of every two years to minimise the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
CO poisoning can occur when gas heaters are not functioning properly or when they are not cleaned and maintained regularly.
An average of one Victorian dies every year from CO poisoning and it is responsible for hundreds of people suffering debilitating, long-term health issues.
The symptoms of CO poisoning can include headaches, fatigue and nausea.
The best way to keep your family safe is to have a registered gasfitter service all gas heating appliances every two years. This applies to all types of appliances including wall heaters, central heaters, gas log fires and space heaters.
Watch out for gas when working
Landowners and occupiers must be mindful of gas infrastructure to ensure the continued safe and reliable operation of gas pipelines.
Safety records show that a significant cause of damage to underground pipelines is excavation or earthmoving activity carried out without the knowledge of the pipeline owner.
The following activities can damage or interfere with gas infrastructure:
- blasting or seismic activity
- drilling for water or samples
- installing new poles for overhead electric lines or new fencing posts, particularly corner posts. Always check with the pipeline owner if there is to be any excavation work near the route of pipelines across farms.
- maintenance and construction of roads, tracks and drains damaging pipelines
- installation of mole drainage systems
- deep ploughing or ripping of ground, particularly ahead of tree planting, damaging underground gas pipelines
- use of earthmoving equipment for construction of dams and levelling of paddocks.
Gas safety advice during bushfires
During a bushfire take the following steps:
- turn off gas supplies if a house or building is threatened by bushfires
- turn off natural gas supplies at the meter and LPG supplies should be turned off at the valves on the cylinders
- LPG cylinders should be left upright on a firm surface with the valve turned off and the pressure relief valve pointed away from the house or building
- foreign materials such as wet blankets should never be placed on or around LPG cylinders.
For advice and information on gas and electricity safety visit the Energy Safe Victoria website at www.esv.vic.gov.au