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Keeping orchardists safe during avocado harvest

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Orchardists are being urged to look up before they work to ensure they are well clear of power lines as the avocado picking season gets into full swing in the Bay of Plenty.

To help keep orchardists safe, electricity lines company Powerco is emphasising the “4-metre danger zone” safety message for people harvesting fruit near power lines.

“When working and using equipment in and around avocado orchards, it is important to stay 4 metres away from power lines to avoid possible electrocution. Make sure you look up before you work and stay away from power lines,” Powerco Group Health, Safety, Environment and Quality Manager Julie McAvoy said.

Horticultural workers have some of the highest levels of injury and fatalities from power lines. Orchards often have overhead power lines near or running through them. Following these simple rules can ensure everyone working on site stays safe.

1. Identify the lines
Before pruning or picking, locate all power lines on the property. Do not touch or work on any tree that is touching or near power lines. Always keep 4m away from overhead power lines. Every line must be treated as live. You don’t need to touch a line to be in danger; electricity can arc (jump) through the air to your equipment and to you.

2. Moving equipment around lines
When moving tall machinery, choose a route where power lines are high enough to give adequate clearance. Lifting equipment should be in a lowered position before being moved near lines. Know where the power lines are before raising the platforms of hydraladas, cherry pickers, EWPs and dump truck beds.

3. Training vines
Do not use wires to train vines along the same path as overhead power lines. A broken wire flicking upwards can come into contact with nearby lines.

4. Use a Powerco-approved contractor
Because orchards have a lot of equipment, it’s tempting to trim or remove trees yourself or help others to do so. If a tree is within 4m of the overhead lines you must use an approved contractor to have it trimmed. A list of approved contractors can be found here.

Contractors trimming or felling trees near power lines may require a close approach consent from Powerco. You must apply at least two working days before starting the work. Close Approach Consents are usually valid for a maximum of one week. Powerco can advise minimum approach distances and whether you require an observer.

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