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Work practices contribute to electrical incidents during cane harvesting

Published: 28 Jul 2017 4:37pm

Fatigue and entrenched work practices are the underlying causes of electrical incidents leading to poor safety performance during cane harvesting according to Ergon Energy.

Customer Delivery Manager Mark Biffanti says with the 2017 harvest underway, Ergon’s community safety advisors continue to work closely with the sugar cane industry to improve safety practices.

“Our aim is to prevent and reduce electrical incidents associated with cane harvesting and educate the industry about the dangers of working around electrical infrastructure.

“However, ultimately, machinery operators need to take personal responsibility for their own safety,” he said.

Mr Biffanti said despite Ergon’s safety work with the industry the number of electrical accidents remain static.

“There has been little change in the number of electrical incidents associated with cane harvesting in regional Queensland in recent years which is concerning.

“The issues are in the field situational awareness of electricity assets, fatigue as harvesting can be a 24 hour a day operation and complacency to their surroundings,” he said.

And with harvesting underway, Ergon has renewed its “Look up and Live” campaign encouraging safe and legal work practices near powerlines.

Mr Biffanti advises farmers and harvesters to:

  • 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.
  • look out for your mates.
  • keep a safe distance between machinery and powerlines.

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

Machinery can only be operated within three meters of powerlines by authorised persons and individual training to comply with the law is available.

Information about safety legislation and exclusion zones is available here:


Ergon Energy also has information on working near powerlines at:


An electrical incident is defined as an incident involving electrical equipment if in the incident resulted in electrocution, an electric shock or injury from electricity.

Media Contact: Corporate communications Manager John Fowler
Phone: 0417283713