Ergon urges cane farmers and contractors to look up and live

ALREADY there have been two electrical safety incidents since the start of cane harvesting in the Bundaberg, Isis and Maryborough district.

Ergon Energy has urged farmers and harvesting contractors to place a renewed focus on safety when operating machinery near power lines.

General manager service delivery Paul Jordon said there was an additional risk this year on farms that had been flooded in January that electrical infrastructure washed away from other areas may have been left in cane fields as floodwaters receded.

"Farmers are urged to check their cane fields prior to harvest to ensure there are no delays when those fields are harvested," he said.

Mr Jordon said the number of reported electrical incidents in the Wide Bay region declined steadily from 12 in 2006 until 2011, which was an incident-free year.

"Then last year, there were eight incidents in the Wide Bay region among the 28 reported statewide," he said.

"Whether this has been caused by complacency or other factors is difficult to know, but it is a trend that needs to be reversed urgently to help prevent the potential for  a fatality to occur."

Mr Jordon said Ergon continued to work closely with the cane industry in a bid to reduce the number of electrical accidents.

He suggested farmers and harvesters:

  • Think through the task and identify all electrical hazards
  • Assess the risks
  • Establish and introduce control measures
  • Clear around power poles and pole stay wires during daylight
  • Do the job safely and have a safety observer on hand

Mr Jordon said keeping a safe distance between machinery and power lines was even more vital in the case of high voltage lines, as operators don't need to come into contact with them to be at risk of electric shock.

"Electricity can arc - or jump - if conductive material comes close enough and that's why it's vital to stay well away," he said.

"The personal safety and financial impact on the machine operator is not only compromised, but also that of the broader public, not to mention the inconvenience to the community through unnecessary power interruptions when electricity infrastructure is damaged."

To coincide with the start of the harvest, Ergon Energy has renewed its Look up and Live campaign encouraging safe and legal work practices near power lines.

Ergon Energy has information on safety around power lines at www.ergon.com.au/your-business/safety-at-work/the-outdoor-workplace.



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