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Insulated LV electric line cut with hedge trimmer

Published 2023-04-11

Background

A vegetation management worker was conducting electric line clearance (ELC) work in a low bushfire risk area (LBRA). The work was being performed by a vegetation management worker who was using an elevated work platform (EWP) similar to that pictured below, example pictured.

Photograph of a truck with a line worker's 'cherry picker' on the back.

The vegetation management worker was using a hedge trimmer to prune pruning vegetation clear from an insulated low voltage electric line (service wire). There was a safety observer on site. As the vegetation management worker was clearing vegetation, they cut through the service wire causing it to fall to the ground and affected electricity supply to the property.

The incident created an unsafe electrical situation that had the potential to cause property damage, serious personal injury or in the worst circumstance an electrocution. Fortunately, no one was injured.

The incident was reported to the electricity distribution business and to Energy Safe Victoria (ESV).

Investigation Findings

ESV conducted an investigation of this incident and found:

  • the vegetation management worker failed to maintain the Safe Approach Distance (SAD) to the insulated LV conductor when they pruned the tree
  • the vegetation management worker did not identify and outline control measures to ensure the work could be completed safely.

ESV’s view is that the combination of these failures means the vegetation management worker did not comply with the Electricity Safety (General) Regulations 2019 (the General Regulations), constituting a breach of Electricity Safety legislation; heavy penalties may be applied to such breaches.

Key Lessons

  • Ensure all site hazards are identified and actions to control the hazards are implemented
  • Continually monitor site and environmental conditions and adjust work sequences and practices to adapt to changing conditions
  • Always maintain appropriate SADs when undertaking works in the vicinity of live electrical apparatus
  • Regularly reassess each worksite for hazards when completing electric line clearance work.

Important information

  • Failing to identify hazards at a work site will place workers at risk of serious personal injury or in the worst circumstance, electrocution
  • Ensure each individual work site is assessed for hazards and controls are implemented to manage risks; this should be an ongoing process throughout the work task to adapt to changing conditions
  • Working near live high and low voltage electric lines is 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 minimum clearances from the electric line, as required by the General Regulations, were not maintained. Failing to maintain the minimum clearance is a breach of the General Regulations.

  • ESV’s view is the vegetation management worker failed to maintain the required SAD from the electric line, which is a breach of the General Regulations
  • ESV’s view is the vegetation management worker interfered with protected infrastructure, which is a breach of the 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. Heavy penalties may be applied.

 

Date: 20/07/2024 15:17

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.

Reviewed