Electrical Safety on the land

With a network that spans a diverse geographic landscape across 95 per cent of NSW, safety on the land is paramount to Essential Energy and the 1,500 rural, regional and remote communities it serves.

General Manager Safety, HR and Environment, David Nardi, said public safety is a shared responsibility between Essential Energy and the agribusiness sector.

“Essential Energy devotes a huge amount of resources and effort to campaigns targeting the agricultural industry with much of this work centred around electrical safety,” David said.

“We strive to ensure farmers are aware of the location of our electrical infrastructure and encourage them to implement measures to protect their safety and the safety of others when working near these assets.

“The biggest electrical safety risk for this sector is machinery contact with powerlines and power poles. The risk is exacerbated in harvest season when more equipment is in operation and GPS tracking and autosteer technology is heavily relied upon.”

Essential Energy’s LAND campaign offers important safety advice for people working near the overhead electricity network during their daily farming activities and seasonal harvests.

The campaign’s key safety messages include:

  • Look up and live – overhead powerlines should be marked and identified at ground level
  • Always be aware – check the location and condition of poles and wires before accessing paddocks and work areas
  • Need to know – know the height of farm machinery and equipment, both when raised and lowered
  • Don’t disembark – if it is safe to do so, stay in the vehicle if your machinery comes into contact with overhead power lines and call Essential Energy immediately on 13 20 80.

“While we appreciate that people in agribusiness face increasing pressure on their time, identifying potential hazards on a property before starting work can help to minimise the risks associated with farming near the electricity network,” David said.

The LAND campaign is one of the tools that Essential Energy uses to reach as many farmers as possible through a variety of avenues – radio ads, email and web campaigns, participation at field days and in-cab stickers for agricultural machinery.

Essential Energy also collaborates with NSW Farmers and other peak bodies and agricultural communities to provide support materials.

“Our rural setting brings with it different land use considerations, additional environmental risks and a lower customer density profile,” David said. “For that reason, safety and reliability are our key priorities and we understand the impact power outages can have on our customers.”

Essential Energy has a suite of electrical safety information available online at: essentialenergy.com.au/safety. This includes free safety stickers, agribusiness and harvest safety fact sheets and a practical instructional electrical safety video.

For maps of Essential Energy’s overhead electricity network or to enquire about having overhead powerline markers installed for a small cost, visit: essentialenergy.com.au/overhead and fill out the online forms.

With summer just around the corner, Essential Energy recommends agricultural machinery operators remain extra vigilant as the days get longer.

“Remember that visibility can be reduced at dawn or dusk and concentration may wane at the end of a long harvest day,” David said.

“In many cases, it only takes a small lapse in concentration for an incident to occur. Unfortunately, that can become a major safety risk to operators and bystanders, and potentially cause a power outage that then inconveniences the local community.”

Essential Energy recommends implementing specific controls for overhead and underground electrical assets prior to working near the network.

“You can minimise your risk of contact with electricity if you and those working on your property know the potential hazards and understand the procedures to maintain personal safety,” David said.

These include:

  • Familiarise yourself with what you need to know prior to starting work near overhead powerlines by reading the Essential Energy “Work near overhead powerlines” fact sheet available for download from essentialenergy.com.au/agribusiness.
  • Know the height and reach of machinery – both when stowed or operated – to ensure a minimum of three metres’ safe distance from powerlines is maintained at all times.
  • If you plan to conduct any excavation work on your farm or property, contact the Dial Before You Dig referral service at: www.1100.com.au, to identify the location of underground utilities.

“Be aware that you can still be injured without directly contacting an overhead powerline as electricity can arc across open spaces and always treat all powerlines as live,” David warned.

“Risk assessments, safety inductions for all workers and the use of a safety observer onsite can greatly reduce potential electrical risks.”

“Let’s make safety a priority every day so everyone can get home safely to their family and loved ones.”

To report a network incident, contact Essential Energy immediately on 13 20 80 or call Triple Zero (000) if the situation is life-threatening.

To find out more about initiatives specific to agribusiness and safety around electricity on farms, visit essentialenergy.com.au/agribusiness.

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