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Electrical - Vegetation management cut branch falls onto HV conductors

Published 2021-07-12


Earlier this year vegetation management workers were pruning private trees on behalf of a private landowner. The trees were growing inside the fence of the property and were quoted to be removed.

There was an electric line on the road reserve along the front of the property. The Tree Climber was pruning a tree beside the uninsulated high voltage (HV) and low voltage (LV) conductors, a cut branch fell in an uncontrolled manner onto the HV conductors.

The fallen branch caused a flashover and the operation of the electricity network protection. This created an unsafe electrical situation that had the potential to cause property damage, serious personal injury or in the worst circumstance, electrocution.

Unfortunately, the Tree Climber received an electric shock and sustained burns their hands, electricity supply was also disrupted to nearby properties.  


A power pole next to a tree


A burnt branch resting on hv conductors

Branches burnt from HV flashover.

Investigation Findings

ESV conducted an investigation of this incident and found:

  • The vegetation management workers failed to maintain the minimum clearances for vegetation management work near protected aerial lines
  • The vegetation management workers failed to ensure safe work methods were utilised; demonstrating disregard for legislative safety requirements for conducting vegetation management work near powerlines
  • The vegetation management workers did not implement precautionary actions to control all hazards to ensure that the work was performed safely.

Key Lessons

  • Do not undertake work that infringes the minimum distances to be maintained from electric lines
  • When planning vegetation management work ensure you assess that the work will remain outside minimum clearances to electric lines; engage with the distribution business if works are required within minimum clearances
  • Instigate No Go Zone principles if completing private vegetation management work near electric lines
  • Regularly reassess each worksite for hazards when completing vegetation management work near electric lines
  • Ensure all site hazards are identified and actions to control the hazards are implemented.

Important information

  • Failing to identify hazards at the worksite will place workers at risk of serious personal injury, or in the worst circumstance electrocution
  • Ensure each worksite is assessed for hazards and controls are implemented to manage risks and ensure compliance with electrical 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 Tree Climber 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 Tree Climber 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.

Contact us

For advice and information about line clearance (vegetation management) contact our team in the following ways:

Date: 20/07/2024 14:52

Controlled document

The currency and accuracy of this document cannot be guaranteed once printed or saved to a storage device. If in doubt, please check the ESV website for the current version.