Quarry fined after excavator hits powerlines

A quarry near Geelong has been convicted and fined $35,000 after a worker had a lucky escape when the excavator he was driving made contact with high voltage powerlines.
News article published

Tuesday 15 Sep 2020

Industries and topics
  • Mining and quarries

Barro Group Pty Ltd was sentenced in Geelong Magistrates' Court on Thursday after pleading guilty to failing to ensure that the workplace and the means of entering and leaving it were safe.

The court heard that the excavator made contact with powerlines at the Maude quarry in October 2018 when the worker was blinded by the sun as he drove the machine from a dam with its boom up.

Two of the lines fell to the ground and power supply was cut to the quarry. No one was injured.

WorkSafe inspectors found there were no protective barriers or warning devices preventing moving machinery coming into contact with overhead powerlines.

The day following the incident, the company installed hazard signage and bund walls to prevent machinery touching the lines. It later installed permanent height restriction structures at both ends of the powerlines.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said employers must ensure that workers' lives were not put at risk when working near powerlines.

"This could have easily ended in tragedy. Powerlines are not always easy to see and it's up to employers to do everything they can to reduce the risks they pose," Ms Nielsen said.

"If there had been adequate height restriction structures and warning signage in place then this frightening incident could have been avoided."

To avoid striking powerlines employers and contractors using trucks and other mobile plant should:

  • Identify all powerlines on site and at site entrance or exit points
  • Monitor weather conditions closely – powerlines can sag in extreme heat and sway in strong winds
  • Be aware that powerlines are more difficult to see at dawn and dusk
  • Comply with the No-Go-Zone rules when operating mobile plant around powerlines
  • Designate travel paths, loading and unloading areas well away from powerlines
  • Install warning signs or other visual indicators on each side of the powerline to warn operators and drivers
  • Consider the type and height of heavy vehicles, plant and machinery and if it can safely operate near the powerlines
  • Induct drivers and operators in the risks of powerlines on site, and the controls in place to prevent hitting the powerlines.