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Overhead powerlines - hierarchy of risk controls

With harvesting continuing or planned across the state and nearly half of recent electrical fatalities involving overhead powerline contact, now is the time to ensure risks are well managed.

The recently revised Electrical Safety Code of Practice – Working near overhead and underground electric lines (PDF, 0.47 MB) has important information for rural producers and workers working near powerlines.

Queensland's work health and safety laws require risks to be managed in accordance with a hierarchy of risk controls, which the code of practice shows can be effectively applied to the risk of contact with overhead powerlines.

As a first step - risks should be eliminated by arranging for power to be switched off during work periods, changing the farming activities or by re-routing powerlines. Redundant powerlines may be removed.

If it's not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk, it should be minimised by doing one or more of the following controls.

Substitution: Overhead powerlines may be replaced by underground cables. This introduces a new risk, so Dial Before You Dig and suitable locating services should be used prior to works involving digging or inserting posts.

Isolation: Raising the height of, or insulating, powerlines may isolate the risk.

Engineering controls: GPS geofencing solutions may help keep machinery away from overhead powerline exclusion zones. Electrical detection and alarm systems may also help.

If the risk remains, the 'Electrical Safety Code of Practice – Working near overhead and underground electric lines' has further information to minimise the remaining risk using administrative and other controls.Energy distributors also can assist in applying the hierarchy of controls.

Energy Queensland's 'look up and live' app is an important tool in your pre-activity planning and risk assessment process.Visit www.ergon.com.au/ and select Powerline Safety Planning, and, if unsure seek advice before starting work.