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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters



Safeguard Magazine

Incident Investigation—Line mechanic dies from toppled power pole

An electrical worker was killed after the concrete power pole he was attached to fell out of the ground. He had been relocating the cross arm on the pole to increase the ground clearance. The man had 40 years experience and was working alone.

The injuries

  • • 
    The line mechanic died as a result of injuries sustained.

The causes

  • • 
    The concrete pole had been installed in stony gravel ground to replace a rotten wooden pole.
  • • 
    An audit of the installation work noted concerns with the safety of the new pole due to its position close to a steep bank, and the depth to which it was installed. A non-conformance report was produced.
  • • 
    The report noted that the pole was leaning, and that when it was installed a stay wire which had helped secure the wooden pole was not attached to the new pole. The stay wire was intended to counter a side strain on the pole as the line changed direction.
  • • 
    The report said the pole depth should be checked. Photographs showed a noticeable lean on the pole, with a gap at the bottom, indicating that it had moved.
  • • 
    However the pole was not marked to warn it might fail – contrary to Regulation 41 of the Electricity (Safety) Regulations 2010 and the Electricity Engineers Association of NZ (Inc) Guideline for Work on Poles and Pole Structures.
  • • 
    No advice was given to indicate that the pole was unsafe to climb, and none of the issues in the non-conformance report were included with the job sheet.
  • • 
    The line mechanic climbed a ladder against the pole to access the cross arm, and was attached to the pole when it fell out of the ground resulting in a fall of about 15 metres due to the sloping bank.

The lessons

  • • 
    The pole should have been marked to indicate it could fail as required by Regulation 41 of the Electricity (Safety) Regulations 2010.
  • • 
    Accepted industry standards require a red tag be used to indicate a pole may fail.
  • • 
    The company should have formally informed the line mechanic of the issues raised in the non-conformance report, by including that information in the job sheet.
  • • 
    Poles must be installed at the correct depth and take into account the terrain they are installed in and wire stays should be attached where necessary.

The outcome

  • • 
    The Department of Labour prosecuted the company for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of the line mechanic while he was at work. The company pleaded guilty to the charge. As the company had voluntarily made reparation and contributions of $106,000 in total, no order for reparation was made by the court and the company was fined $75,000.

Thomson Reuters

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