Warning for farmers to use caution around powerlines

CANE SEASON: Growers and contractors have been warned to take care near powerlines as the harvest gets underway.
CANE SEASON: Growers and contractors have been warned to take care near powerlines as the harvest gets underway. Mike Knott BUNHAR

ELECTRICITY provider Ergon Energy has warned growers and contractors to be careful when operating machinery near powerlines, stay wires and poles.

Craig Harris, Ergon acting general manager, service delivery, said the number of electrical accidents associated with cane harvesting in the Bundaberg, Isis and Maryborough districts was showing a disturbing upward trend.

He said the 10 incidents recorded last year was an increase of two on the previous year and the highest tally since 2006.

Mr Harris also urged farmers to pay particular attention to the potential for travelling irrigators to spray water onto power lines, causing them to clash and resulting in power to customers on the same feeder line being interrupted.

"Half of the 10 electrical safety incidents in the Wide Bay region during the 2013 crush were caused by irrigation, compared with just two in the rest of the state," he said.

"Other incidents typically involve harvesters, haul-out vehicles, derailments and tractor work.

"The fact that the 2011 harvest was free of reported incidents in this region shows what can be achieved and we want to see a return to that this year."

Mr Harris said Ergon was working closely with the sugar cane industry to reduce the number of electrical accidents, including holding field days in Bundaberg.

Safety laws make it illegal to operate machinery such as cane harvesters, haul-out vehicles, cranes and excavators within three metres of powerlines unless operators are authorised.

Bundaberg Canegrowers chairman Allan Dingle said the message to growers and contractors during the harvest was 'look up and live'.

"It's something everyone has got to be aware of," he said.

"You've just got to have your wits about you."

Mr Dingle said harvesting contractors and growers needed to be aware of where powerlines and poles were.

"Growers should advise their contractors where the electricity wires are.

"Farming can be a dangerous business, you have to be on your toes all the time," he added.

Topics:  ergon energy farming

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