Cut branch falls onto LV conductors

Published 2023-08-18

Background

A photograph of a large tree branch that fell on a powerline.

Earlier this year vegetation management workers were engaged to remove a tree on a private property on behalf of the landowner. There were uninsulated high voltage (HV) and low voltage (LV) conductors adjacent to the tree along the front of the property.

The Tree Climber was removing a limb of the tree when it fell in an uncontrolled manner onto the LV conductors.

The branch made contact with the LV conductors causing the network protection to operate and the electricity supply was disrupted to nearby properties.

This created an unsafe electrical situation that had the potential to cause property damage, serious personal injury or in the worst circumstance electrocution. 

Investigation Findings

Energy Safe conducted an investigation of this incident and found:

  • The vegetation management workers failed to ensure safe work methods were utilised; demonstrating disregard for legislative safety requirements for conducting vegetation management work near powerlines
  • The vegetation management workers did not implement precautionary actions to control all hazards to ensure the work was performed safely.

Key Lessons

  • When planning vegetation management work ensure both the workers performing the tasks and the parts of the trees they are cutting will remain outside minimum distance to electric lines; engage with the distribution business if works are required within the minimum distances
  • Instigate No Go Zone principles if completing private vegetation management work near electric lines
  • Regularly reassess each worksite for hazards when completing vegetation management work near electric lines
  • Ensure all site hazards are identified and actions to control the hazards are implemented.

Important information

  • Failing to identify hazards at the work site will place workers and the community at risk of serious personal injury, or in the worst circumstance electrocution
  • Ensure each work site is assessed for hazards and controls are implemented to manage risks and ensure compliance with Electricity Safety Regulations
  • Working near live HV or LV electric lines are equally dangerous. A vegetation management worker was electrocuted in February 2019 when they made contact with uninsulated LV electric lines. 

Enforcement outcomes

Having completed its investigation of this incident it is Energy Safe’s view that the Tree Climber failed to ensure the branch they were cutting maintained the minimum distances from the electric line as required by the Electricity Safety (General) Regulations 2019 (the General Regulations). Failing to maintain the minimum distance is a breach of the General Regulations. 
It is also Energy Safe’s view that the Tree Climber interfered with protected infrastructure, which is also a breach of the General Regulations.

On this occasion, Energy Safe’s issued an infringement to the Tree Climber but in the future 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.

Date: 30/05/2024 3:23

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Reviewed