Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) is reminding all arborists of the need to take extra care when working in the vicinity of powerlines.
ESV’s Line Clearance Assurance Manager, Gary Wright, said trees and branches can conduct electricity and cause electric shock or death if they contact powerlines. This can happen whether you are working from a bucket of an elevated work platform, from the ground or in a tree.
“It is crucial for all arborists and vegetation workers to always maintain control of vegetation when cutting near powerlines and to know where the arc of a branch will fall,” he said. “You need to take special care when working near overhead powerlines because a simple mistake or a shortcut can be fatal.”
ESV has been running a safety campaign for arborists since 2014 when a young vegetation worker died when a branch he was cutting fell into high-voltage powerlines.
The Don’t Put Your Life On The Line campaign is designed to raise awareness about the additional dangers faced by arborists and vegetation workers when working close to powerlines.
“In addition to knowing the No Go Zone guidelines and other worker clearance requirements, this incident highlighted the need for vegetation workers to take extra precautions and carefully assess each situation to anticipate all possible safety risks,” Mr Wright said.
There are a few simple steps you can take to help keep you safe.
Know the No Go Zone
If you are using large vehicles, plant or equipment to clear trees the first step is to know the No Go Zone framework. The minimum clearance guidelines are shown on these pages.
In addition to this there are three different requirements that vegetation workers may need to comply with. These depend on whether you are working for or contracted to a private company or person, a council, or a Victorian Electricity Supply Industry (VESI) company.
It is important to know what skills and training you require to perform certain tasks. This will vary depending on who you are working for and the type of electric lines you are working near.
Before You Start Work
In addition to the No Go Zone and other clearance and training requirements, it’s important to anticipate all risks and think outside the square. If you’re working in a tree near powerlines and particularly if you’re holding a long branch you are potentially in a very dangerous situation.
ESV recommends those working for a private company or person should always maintain the 3m No Go Zone clearance from powerlines when climbing trees to remain safe. At a minimum, private contractors must comply with the requirements contained in Regulation 318 of Victoria’s Electricity Safety (Installations) Regulations 2009.
Other things to consider when working on trees near powerlines include:
Always check that the foliage is far enough away from powerlines for safe work to commence
Always maintain control of vegetation when cutting near powerlines, know where the arc of a branch will fall or cut in small sections to maintain a safe clearance Ensure that all workers are properly trained and qualified for the job you are doing
Only cut branches or sections of branches that are of a size that can be safely managed
Only Proceed If It’s Safe
If there is any concern regarding safety when clearing trees in the vicinity of powerlines, don’t proceed. Discuss job safety with the local electricity distributor before starting work. You are required to notify them when working near their powerlines. Always remember that you have the right to refuse work if the job is unsafe.
Do the job properly
All workers on a site should constantly monitor the location of machinery and equipment that could come into contact with powerlines, including EWPs, ladders, ropes, polesaws and power pruners. They should also continuously watch movements of climbers aloft in trees to warn them if they are getting too close to powerlines.
Every worker should know the No Go Zone guidelines for working near powerlines and also:
- Shall be suitably trained, qualified, authorised and experienced
- Always complete a hazard analysis before starting work
- Discuss identified hazards within your workgroup so everyone is aware
- Never cut corners or start a job unless it is safe to proceed
- Repeatedly check the location of powerlines while work is underway as their position can change significantly due to wind and temperature.
Warn Other Workers
Tradespeople, vegetation workers and arborists who are working near powerlines and electrical infrastructure need to be extremely careful that they or the equipment they are using doesn’t touch live wires. Anyone entering the work site needs to be aware of these risks. Actions should be taken to ensure that people who don’t understand these hazards, or are not appropriately trained and authorised, are kept well away.
Guidelines For Minimum Clearances For Vegetation Workers
These guidelines provide vegetation workers with guidance on the safe working distance from overhead electrical assets. There are three different requirements that vegetation workers may need to comply with depending upon who they are working for, or engaged by, and their qualifications and training.
ESV recommends private tree contractors maintain the No Go Zone 3m exclusion zone. However, at a minimum, private contractors must comply with the requirements contained in Regulation 318 of Victoria’s Electricity Safety (Installations) Regulations 2009. The latest version of the No Go Zone rules can be found online at www.worksafe.vic.gov.au.
Vegetation management work in the vicinity of, or near live overhead powerlines performed by persons on behalf of a council that has electric line clearance responsibilities defined by the Electricity Safety Act 1998 is to be undertaken in compliance with:
- the Code of Practice on electrical safety for work on or near high voltage electrical apparatus; the Blue Book, and
- ESV Electrical Safety Rules for Vegetation Management Work Near Overhead Powerlines by Non-Electrical Workers.
Victorian Electricity Supply Industry (VESI) Work
Vegetation management work in the vicinity of or near live overhead powerlines by persons working for an electricity asset owner is to be undertaken in compliance with the VESI Vegetation Management Guideline. Information on the training requirements for persons working for, or under the control of an electricity asset owner is also contained within the guideline that can be found online at www.vesi.com.au
If you are ever unsure about what the requirements are remembered you can always call and ask the relevant distribution business for advice.
The contact details for the Victoria electricity distribution businesses are:
- AusNet Services 1300 360 795
- CitiPower 13 12 80
- Jemena 13 16 26
- Powercor 13 12 80
- United Energy 13 20 99