Essential Energy looks after the poles and wires that deliver electricity to 95 per cent of New South Wales and parts of southern Queensland. The electricity powers the homes, hospitals, schools, businesses, and services that form local community. The business is on call 24/7 to fix power outages, maintain the pole and wires to meet customers’ needs and explore innovative and cost-effective ways to provide services.
Essential Energy knows that regional, rural and remote communities form the backbone of NSW’s agricultural industry.
The biggest electrical safety risk for the agribusiness sector is machinery contact with powerlines and power poles. For this reason, Essential Energy urges farmers to take steps to protect their safety and the safety of others when working near electrical infrastructure.
Essential Energy’s Head of Organisational Safety, Michael Flannery, described public safety as a shared responsibility. “Our goal is to help farmers and agricultural workers to understand how to protect their safety and the safety of others when working near the electricity network.”
“Essential Energy has a network that spans 95 per cent of NSW and serves 1,500 rural, regional and remote communities, so a lot of our work is centred around electrical safety within the agricultural industry”, Michael said.
“Essential Energy’s educational safety campaigns focus on those working on the land and reinforce the need for farmers to remain alert to electrical hazards and aware of the location of electrical infrastructure, such as overhead powerlines,” Michael said.
Essential Energy offers a range of tools to help keep workers safe while working on the farm. This includes an Aerial Marker Program, offering the installation of up to 10 aerial powerline markers free of charge, to increase powerline visibility and help reduce contact with overhead powerlines.
Michael said “Unfortunately, we have seen a variety of incidents across our footprint, involving farming machinery and aerial spraying (crop dusting) planes coming into contact with our network. To help reduce the risk of potentially fatal accidents, landowners are encouraged to consider installing aerial markers on their property.
“Feedback from those undertaking work near where aerial markers are installed has been very positive, with people saying how amazed they are with how eye catching the markers are, and others stating they help save lives.”
SafeWork NSW offer rebates to small businesses and sole traders in NSW who buy and install equipment that makes their workplace safer, meaning many agribusinesses may be able to claim back up to $1000 of the purchase cost of the powerline markers. Essential Energy also offers site visits on request to discuss ways to stay safe around powerlines.
Essential Energy also has the Look Up and Live app available to use in its network area, which provides powerline safety at the click of a button.
“The app is a simple tool that everyone can access from a laptop or smartphone to access information including the location of overhead powerlines and imagery via an interactive geospatial map. This is an important first step that everyone working on the land should take before starting work,” Michael said.
The app can be accessed at essentialenergy.com.au/lookupandlive or can be downloaded through the Apple or Google Play stores.
Essential Energy also offers a range of online electrical safety information including educational fact sheets on agribusiness and harvest safety, free safety stickers, and a practical instructional electrical safety video. These are available at essentialenergy.com.au/safety
- Look up and Live – visit essentialenergy.com.au/lookupandlive or download the app
- Install aerial markers – visit essentialenergy.com.au/aerialmarkerprogram to request markers for your property
- Know machinery heights – the height of farm machinery and equipment, both when raised and lowered
- Stay, Call, Wait – if your vehicle comes into contact with the overhead network, stay in the vehicle, call 000 and wait for the all clear from Essential Energy.
Tips for staying safe
As harvest activities heighten across NSW and GPS tracking and autosteer technology is more heavily relied upon, the risk of farm machinery contacting powerlines or power poles increases. Essential Energy recommends these top tips for keeping safe on the land during your daily farming activities.
Plan ahead to stay safe.
The first and most important step is to always plan ahead to stay safe. “We encourage all landowners to plan ahead before starting work, download the Look up and Live app and inquire with Essential Energy about the installation of aerial markers and other electrical safety measures, to help keep themselves, and their workers safe this season” Michael said.
Essential Energy offers site visits on request to discuss ways to stay safe around powerlines, including considering installing aerial markers.
Seasonal Worker Checklist. This is designed to help keep seasonal workers on properties stay safe.
The Seasonal Worker Checklist
is designed to help keep seasonal workers on properties stay safe. “The seasonal worker checklist is a handy 5-minute checklist that all landowners can incorporate into their daily safety inductions to ensure employees understand the dangers of working around electricity, and how they can keep themselves safe,” Michael said. The checklist is available at essentialenergy.com.au/agribusiness
Stay. Call. Wait.
It’s also critical to know how to respond in the unlikely event your machinery comes into contact with powerlines or other parts of the electricity network.
If your machinery contacts overhead powerlines, stay in the vehicle and call 000 immediately. Wait until you have received the all clear from attending Essential Energy employees that the power has been switched off and it’s safe to exit the vehicle.
“This is a critical step that could save your life – too often we have seen incidents occur because workers did not know how to respond when their machinery contacted the network – staying put could save your life,” Michael said.
Stay clear when powerlines are near.
Remember that electricity can arc or ‘jump’ across open spaces, so bystanders should remain at least eight metres away and treat powerlines as live.
To achieve safe work habits
- Ensure minimum approach distances are maintained – that is, the amount of space between machinery (and anything held by a person) and the powerlines. This will prevent electricity arcing to the vehicle operator or the machinery.
- Know the height and reach of machinery in both stowed and working positions. Machinery higher than 4.6 metres is at greater risk of contact with powerlines and therefore should be closely monitored.
- Identify safe travel paths to reduce the possibility of contact with powerlines and always fully lower machinery to the transport position before moving off.
If an emergency exit is necessary because of fire, jump well clear of the vehicle, land with your feet together, and don’t touch the vehicle, fall forward or backward, or allow your feet to step apart. Shuffle with your feet together until you are at least eight metres clear of the vehicle, powerlines or anything else in contact with them. Do not return to the vehicle for any reason.
Look up and live. Agricultural workers are encouraged to identify potential electrical hazards on a property before starting work and be mindful that changes in weather conditions can affect the electricity network. This includes reduced visibility of powerlines at dawn or dusk and strong winds and extreme heat causing lines to sway and sag.
“We participate at major field days, use radio ads, email, social media and web campaigns, and provide in-cab stickers for agricultural machinery. However, ultimately at the end of the day, the most effective way to remain safe on the farm is to have controls in place for identifying overhead and underground electrical assets prior to working near the network,” added Michael.
To find out more about initiatives specific to agribusiness and safety around electricity on farms,
contact Essential Energy immediately on 13 20 80or call Triple Zero call (000) if the situation is life-threatening.