THE CRUSH: Cane harvesters need to be careful when working near powerlines.
THE CRUSH: Cane harvesters need to be careful when working near powerlines. Mike Knott BUNHAR

Cane harvesters reminded to look up and live

THE number of electrical safety incidents associated with cane harvesting remains stubbornly high in the Bundaberg, Isis and Maryborough districts - a situation Ergon Energy wants to see reversed.

Acting customer service delivery manager for Fraser and Burnett Matt Aberdein said seven of the 24 electrical incidents during the crushing season in regional Queensland last year were recorded in the Wide Bay.

Mr Aberdein said this included five incidents involving cane harvesters and two from haul-out machinery.

"This result is very concerning because we are seeing the statistics heading in the wrong direction after recording only 11 incidents in total from 2007 to 2010 and then being incident-free in 2011," he said.

"In contrast, the past three years have produced eight, 10 and then seven electrical safety incidents.

"As this year's cane harvesting season gets into full swing, Ergon is again urging farmers and harvesting contractors to Look Up and Live and exercise extreme care when operating machinery near power lines.

"Many incidents involving farm vehicles and power lines can be avoided, even though the size of the equipment used during harvesting means the risk of contacting overhead powerlines can be high."

Mr Aberdein advised 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

"Keeping a safe distance between machinery and powerlines is even more vital in the case of high voltage lines, as operators don't need to come into contact with them to be at risk of electric shock," he said.

"Electricity can arc - or jump - if conductive material comes close enough and that's why it's vital to stay well away."

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.

Training was available to enable individuals to work within the three-metre exclusion zone, he said.

Ergon continues to work closely with the sugar cane industry and other agricultural sectors.

"Our safety advisors continue to educate and work closely with the industry to try to reduce the number of electrical accidents in our cane growing areas," he said

To coincide with the start of the harvest, Ergon Energy has renewed its Look Up and Live campaign encouraging safe and legal work practices near power lines.

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