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Night cane harvesters urged to watch for powerlines

Published: 16 Sep 2016 11:08am

Machinery operators working in the sugar cane fields at night or early morning are warned to watch for overhead powerlines and take additional precautions because of low visibility.

Ergon Energy’s warning follows a night-time incident when a harvester contacted powerlines on The Tablelands in Far North Queensland recently.

The driver was not injured and stayed in the cab until Ergon crews arrived. The accident interrupted power to over 1400 customers in the Tolga and Walkamin areas for an hour last Tuesday night.

Customer Delivery Manager Charlie Casa said weather conditions are prompting a 24 hour harvesting schedule in some regions of the state.

“We understand that sometimes harvesting needs to happen most hours of the day and especially at the moment because of weather related delays. However Ergon Energy recommends night harvesting not occur if powerlines are present in a paddock,” he said.

Mr Casa said safety observers must be used at all times when operating harvesters near powerlines.

“Their role is to ensure the harvester does not breach the 3 metre exclusion zone around powerlines. However at night, safety observers cannot judge distances properly and are therefore ineffective.

“Ergon suggests seeking safety advice first if operating in a safety observer zone and appropriate control measures should be put in place to ensure the harvester does not come within an unsafe distance of powerlines.”

With some harvesting operations working on a 24 hour schedule, Ergon urges machinery operators to take additional precautions when working at night or in the early hours of the morning.

“Visibility is lower and machinery operators should plan ahead, know the location of power poles and other electricity assets before harvesting starts.

“Briefing operators at change of shift, clearing around power poles and pole stay wires during daylight can help avoid the risk of contact with overhead lines or power poles during night time operations,” he said.

Mr Casa added, keeping machinery a safe distance from powerlines is vital in the case of high voltage lines, as close proximity could result in an electric shock.

“Electricity can arc – or jump if conductive material comes close enough and that’s why it’s vital to stay well away.”

If machinery contacts powerlines, the operator should stay inside the cab if possible, call Ergon on 132296 or Triple 000 for help.

Mr Casa said Ergon will continue to work with and educate the industry about the potential dangers of working around electrical infrastructure but ultimately machinery operators need to take personal responsibility for their own safety.

Media Contact: Corporate Communications Manager John Fowler
Phone: 0417283713

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