Working on power lines is a job that commonly calls for the use of a MEWP. If your business
provides this service or any other one that involves coming into contact with high voltage power
sources at height, are you taking the time to make sure your employees are trained properly before
they set foot on the platform?
The recent tragic death of an electrical worker in Australia reveals that not all businesses are
investing in employee training. The worker in question was installing spacers on conductor wires
connecting two parallel lines between towers. He was electrocuted, with a nearby co-worker
suffering from severe electrical shocks from attempting to save him. Emergency workers were
unable to reach him as the electrical current from the shock rendered the cherry picker non-
functional, and no helicopter could get near the site due to presence of live conductors. Another
cherry picker had to be requested, which only arrived two hours later.
An inquest revealed that the man had been on the job for less than a month and that he didn’t have
the appropriate equipment (such as hot sticks, earthing leads and hot gloves) with him. He also
didn’t follow the company’s safety protocols. There were no risk assessments or checks undertaken
on the ground to ensure that the right equipment was present, and it’s suspected that shortcuts
were taken as the project was already running behind schedule.
A preventable tragedy
It was discovered after the accident that the man who died had not received any formal training on
working with live transmissions or at height. Only after his tragic death did the company in question
introduce comprehensive training and a permit to work requirement, as well as the presence of
additional safety equipment.
While this situation might have occurred in Australia, it could easy occur on any job site in the world.
From reading the above its apparent that safety at height when working with electricity is a group
effort and not solely the employee or employer’s responsibility.
It’s critical that both groups understand that training and pre and post work procedures serve a
purpose, even if they slow down jobs. If your company uses MEWPs, introducing frequent training
and sticking to safety procedures can literally save lives.