Working safely near overhead electric power lines Workers who operate horticultural mobile elevating work platforms (H/MEWPs) in orchards, or other horticulture workplaces, are at significant risk of accidental contact with overhead power lines.
KEY POINTS >> Always complete a risk assessment to identify any overhead powerlines in the work area before beginning work. >> In your risk assessment outline how you're going to ensure that no machinery, people or equipment come within 4 m
Transmission lines are high voltage lines which transport electrical power over long distances (from power plants to substations). There have been several incidents where H/MEWPs have come into contact with live power lines resulting in serious injury and death.
of any overhead power lines or 6 m of
You must avoid any machinery, people or
transmission lines. These distances must
equipment coming within the ‘safe distances’.
be observed by persons using H/MEWPs.
As set out in the New Zealand Electrical Code
>> Eliminate any risks arising from working
of Practice for Electrical Safe Distances (NZECP
near overhead power lines. If you cannot
34:2001), this is within 4 m of overhead power
eliminate a risk then you must put controls
lines. For overhead transmission lines, the
in place to minimise it.
recommendation is to allow a distance of 6 m.
>> Regularly review your property’s risk plan for working near overhead power lines.
DANGERS OF WORKING NEAR OVERHEAD POWER LINES
when working near transmission lines.
The safe distances for working near power lines or transmission lines are established in NZECP 34:2001 available at www.energysafety.govt.nz
The risk of accidental contact with live overhead
MANAGING THE RISK
power lines by workers operating H/MEWPs is
Before work starts identify all overhead power
significant in orchards and other horticultural
lines in your work area as part of your risk
workplaces. There is also a significant risk
assessment. You must take steps to eliminate
KEEP SAFE, KEEP FARMING
or minimise the risks when working near overhead power lines, so far as is reasonably practicable. Orchard and horticulture workplaces should think about what they plant near overhead power lines that may grow into the safe distances around the power lines in the future.
Below are some examples of controls you could put in place: >> Where any H/MEWP is operating near an overhead power line, the owner or operator places a warning sign in plain view which states: ‘WARNING, KEEP
STAYING OUTSIDE THE SAFE DISTANCES At no time should any H/MEWP, person or piece of equipment come within the safe distances. This is in any direction – from under, above or either side. If you do need to work within the safe distance zone near an overhead power line, then you must first consult with the line owner. If you are the line owner then you will need to seek technical advice, for example from the local network owner. You should also consider contracting a line mechanic or utility arborist who is qualified to work near overhead electric powerlines to carry out the work.
CLEAR OF POWER LINES’. >> Ensure that H/MEWP operators are competent in the operation of their machines, thoroughly briefed and understand the dangers of working near overhead power lines. >> Ensure that a competent safety observer is present at all times. A competent safety observer can be defined as a person who watches the H/MEWP to identify and warn the operator if they are getting too close to the safe distance zone or about any other hazards. >> Ensure that the safety observer is able to maintain effective communication with the
operators and alert operators or any other
If you are operating an H/MEWP near live
workers immediately if they, or any piece
overhead power lines, then you need to have
of machinery or equipment, are about to
controls in place to ensure that any machine,
enter the safe distance zone. This should
person or equipment does not come within
be the safety observer’s sole task.
the safe distances of any overhead power lines.
>> Safety observers should remain clear of the H/MEWP at all times and outside of the safe distance zone.
>> To avoid distractions, the competent 4m
H/MEWP operators should not use cell phones or any electronic equipment, or wear clothing which could impede their vision or movement while working in the defined area. >> The competent operators working near overhead power lines should obey any instructions given by the safety observer.
For further information on working near overhead electric power lines visit the WorkSafe website: www.worksafe.govt.nz
PUBLISHED: March 2017. CURRENT UNTIL REVIEW IN 2019.
Working safely near overhead electric power lines - WorkSafe
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