Cane harvesting safety urged

Published: 16 Jun 2015 11:40am

The number of electrical accidents associated with cane harvesting fell to its lowest level in three years in 2014 but remains stubbornly high across the state according to Ergon Energy.

Customer Service Delivery Manager Herbert Mark Biffanti said 24 incidents occurred last year and typically were caused by cane harvesters, haul out vehicles and even cane trains at various locations.

"As this year's cane harvesting starts, Ergon is again urging farmers and harvesting contractors to look up and live and exercise extreme care when operating machinery near powerlines," Mr Biffanti said.

Many incidents involving farm vehicles and powerlines can be avoided and machinery operators should look up and live when harvesting he said.

"Given the size of the equipment used during harvesting, the risk of contacting overhead powerlines can be high."

Mr Biffanti 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 only;
  • do the job safely and have a safety observer on hand. and look out for your mates

"Keeping a safe distance between machinery and powerlines is 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."

Safety laws make it illegal to operate machinery such as cane harvesters, haul-out vehicles, cranes and excavators within three metres of powerlines unless operators are authorised.

Training is available to enable individuals to work within the three-metre exclusion zone, he said.

Ergon continues to work closely with the sugar cane industry and other agricultural sectors.

"Our safety advisors continue to educate and work closely with the industry to try and reduce the number of electrical accidents in our cane growing areas."

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 powerlines.

Information about safety legislation and exclusion zones is available here:  

https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/agriculture/workplace-hazards/electrical-safety-in-the-rural-industry#lookup

Ergon Energy also has information on safety around powerlines at:

https://www.ergon.com.au/network/safety/business-safety/the-outdoor-workplace/working-near-powerlines

The number of electrical incidents related to harvesting in North Queensland and other regions appears below.

Regional comparisons:

 

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

Overall

Wide Bay

12

4

1

2

4

0

8

10

7

48

Mackay

9

9

7

1

3

3

7

7

8

54

Nth Qld

12

9

8

13

9

9

9

8

4

81

FNQ

12

6

6

3

5

3

4

5

6

50

 Total

45

28

22

19

21

15

28

30

24

233

Media Contact: John Fowler
Phone: 0417283713

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