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Energy Queensland has 1.7 million power poles and over 225,000km of overhead and underground powerlines across Queensland. Unfortunately, powerlines are accidentally contacted by workers all too frequently, which can result in severe and sometimes fatal injuries. Ergon Energy and Energex, as part of Energy Queensland, have developed a lifesaving tool to help improve safety around powerlines, that was formally recognised at the Safe Work Awards as Queensland’s ‘best solution to an identified electrical issue’.

Look Up and Live is an online mapping application that pinpoints the location of 210,000km of overhead powerlines and 1.7 million poles across Queensland.

Energy Queensland’s network businesses, Ergon and Energex, have been running a general campaign around powerline awareness and safety for some time now, and the online application is an extension of this.

Aaron Smith, HSE Business Partner and Community Safety Manager at Energy Queensland, said the utility’s team of community safety specialists has been collecting statistics on accidental powerline contacts for over ten years to better understand why these incidents are occurring and how they could be prevented.

“From our investigation of powerline incidents, a clear issue stands out – a distinct lack of planning and powerline awareness. This lack of planning leads to workers not identifying any of the risks or hazards and therefore using no hierarchy of control to mitigate them,” Mr Smith said.

“The team fosters a positive and proactive association of powerline safety messages within the community by building awareness of the dangers of accidental contact with powerlines – via our program of engaging, educating and enabling workers.

“The Look Up and Live tool enables behaviour change by helping workers to adequately plan work and put effective controls in place, such as de-energisation, relocations, augmenting lines, and safety observers and/or rotamarkers (powerline markers) to highlight powerlines and keep persons clear.”

The Look Up and Live application runs on ESRI’s ArcGIS platform and took nearly four years to develop, test and gain final approvals.

“The Community Safety team worked with members of our Digital Enablement and Asset Safety teams internally to build a product that would be easy for ‘at risk’ industries and general members of the public to use.

It was built at a very low cost with existing tools and technology, imagery and publicly available GIS data incorporating roads, local government boundaries and land use,” Mr Smith said.

“Once the tool was built, the teams gained approval to trial it with members of ‘at risk’ industries to gauge usability and collect feedback from industry groups.

Feedback was very positive, and the tool was then made available at lookupandlive.com.au. After approval from internal stakeholders at Energy Queensland, the tool was released for public use in April 2019.

“Essentially this tool and process is similar to a Dial Before You Dig request, but provides an interactive self-serve safety tool for overhead powerlines.

For example, if used at the quoting stage of a construction site, the overhead powerline hazard could be eliminated by contacting the asset owner to have the lines removed and replaced with underground powerlines, or they could be de-energised when work needs to be performed around them.

“The teams are still taking feedback on the tool, including adding extra features that have been requested such as the ability to export data as kml or kmz files so it overlays onto existing GPS systems; an instant quoting tool to give indications of the cost of de-energising, relocating or raising powerlines; and an online risk assessment form incorporating imagery and powerline overlays.”

A valuable addition to the planning toolkit

The application is targeted towards ‘at risk’ industries, such as building and construction, agriculture, aviation, vegetation management, road transport and earthmoving.

Mr Smith said these industries are most at risk due to lack of planning and inattentional blindness.

“All these accidents are avoidable and mainly occur due to inattentional blindness, which is when an individual fails to perceive danger in plain sight, such as powerlines. Put simply we plan to work near the powerlines we cannot see.

There is the Dial Before You Dig tool for identifying underground assets, but there has never been a tool for planning work near overhead powerlines,” Mr Smith said.

“We have put ourselves in the shoes of workers and geospatially overlaid powerlines onto imagery enabling workers and the community to effectively plan work near powerlines.

The user is now able to look at the worksite from a new vantage point and identify the electrical hazards, assess powerline risks, implement appropriate control measures and access links with additional safety advice.”

Unfortunately, the statistics speak for themselves. In Queensland, an average of 750 accidental contacts with powerlines occur each year – at least one person is electrocuted and approximately 15 people are injured.

The Queensland Electrical Safety Act 2002 stipulates that powerlines up to 132,000V must have a 3m exclusion zone for untrained persons, but most people are unaware of this requirement for safe work near powerlines.

“The Community Safety team now share this tool when engaged in face-to-face discussions at industry events and when delivering powerline safety talks, as well as through social media, editorials and advertisements,” Mr Smith said.

“Our vision is to market this tool nationally to raise powerline safety awareness and reduce accidental powerline contacts.

“Feedback from ‘at risk’ industries has been very positive and has seen an increase in requests for safety advice and rotamarkers.

We have had tremendous feedback from companies such as Fulton Hogan, John Holland, Aerial Applicators Association of Australia (AAAA), Cotton Australia, Agforce, and local government councils and structural designers across Queensland.”

The Look Up and Live tool was recognised at the 2019 Queensland Safe Work and Return to Work Awards, winning the ‘best solution to an identified electrical issue’ category, which recognises excellence in developing and implementing a solution to an identified workplace electrical safety issue.

The tool was also recognised by the AAAA at its National Convention and Trade Show, taking out the 2019 Leland Snow Innovation Award.

The Look Up and Live application features:

  • Free access at www.lookupandlive.com.au
  • Simple powerline overlay onto imagery
  • Works on all devices, including phones and tablets
  • Includes exclusion zone overlays
  • Displays voltages and indicates the owners of powerlines
  • User can start different safety processes, for example to have a powerline removed from a property or order the installation of a powerline marker
  • User can draw/write on the map then print out the plan for their property or construction site
  • Instantly share your location or screen via email with contractors/workers
  • Quick links to order free safety stickers
  • Quick links to watch safety videos
  • Quick link to start a Dial Before You Dig enquiry

Charlotte Pordage is Editor of Utility magazine, a position she has held since November 2018. She joined the team as an Associate Editor in October 2017, after sharpening her writing and editing skills across a range of print and digital publications. Charlotte graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2011 with joint honours in English and Latin. When she's not putting together Australia's only dedicated utility magazine, she can usually be found riding her horse or curled up with a good book.

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