Avocado pickers are being warned to look up before they work to ensure they are well clear of power lines, as the avocado picking season gets underway in the Bay of Plenty.
Electricity lines company Powerco is emphasising the “four-metre danger zone” safety message for people harvesting fruit near power lines, to help keep pickers safe.
“When working and using equipment in and around avocado orchards, it is important to stay four metres away from power lines to avoid possible electrocution,” says Powerco group health, safety, environment and quality manager, Julie McAvoy.
“Make sure you look up before you work and stay away from power lines.”
Horticultural workers have some of the highest levels of injury and fatalities from power lines, says Julie.
“Orchards often have overhead power lines near or running through them.”
Following these simple rules can ensure everyone working on site stays safe:
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 four metres 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.
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.
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.
• 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. Contactors should apply online here or call Powerco during normal business hours on 0800 769 372.