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Look up in the orchard – Power lines can kill

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Bay of Plenty avocado and kiwifruit orchardists are being urged to ‘look up’ before they pick fruit, prune, build artificial shelter belts or raise canopies, because power lines can kill.

Electricity lines company Powerco is launching a new safety initiative today highlighting the ‘4-metre danger zone’ safety message for people working in orchards with power lines overhead. 

“Stay safe. When working and using equipment in and around orchards, please look up before you work and stay at least 4 metres away from power lines,” Powerco General Manager Health and Safety, Julie McAvoy, said. 

The distance extends to 8.5m if building shelter belts or raising canopies. 

The safety message will be heard over the airwaves in the Bay of Plenty, as well as through an animated video on Powerco’s Facebook page. 

Horticultural workers have some of the highest rates of injury and death from power lines. This is because orchards often have overhead power lines near or running through them, so there’s significant risk of workers or equipment accidentally touching the lines. 

“You don’t even need to touch a line to be in danger – electricity can jump the gap through the air to your equipment and to you. Every line must be treated as live. Always,” Mrs McAvoy said. 

Following these rules can ensure everyone working in the orchard goes home safely. 

  • Always keep at least 4 metres away from overhead power lines. 
  • Do not touch or work on any tree or vine that is touching or near power lines. 
  • Look up and know where power lines are before raising platforms of hydraladas, cherry pickers, elevating work platforms or dump truck beds, and chose a route where power lines are high enough to give a least 4m clearance. 
  • Lower lifting equipment before moving near lines. 
  • 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 with potential fatal results. 

The look up message also applies when building structures in the orchard, such as artificial shelter belts or raising canopies – when you must be at least 8.5 metres clear of electrical equipment. By law, orchardists and builders must follow these regulations that govern safety when building near overhead power lines. 

For more information about keeping safe in the orchard, visit powerco.co.nz/safety/safety-in-orchards/.

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