Linemen need better communication - coroner

Last updated 16:53 07/08/2014

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A coroner has called for better communication between linemen to prevent fatal errors on the job.

PowerNet lineman Stuart Andrew Kenning, 48, died in 2012 after being electrocuted while working on power lines near Mossburn.

In his written findings, Otago-Southland coroner David Crerar said better communication procedures could have addressed the dangers that led to Kenning's death.

Kenning began work on a broken 11-kilovolt conductor near Mossburn about 8am on October 27, 2012.

He was working alone, in contact with telephone systems controllers, and although he was qualified and experienced, he made three serious errors of judgment on the job, the findings say.

He did not correctly identify the appropriate isolation point for the line he was working on, he failed to prove the equipment was de-energised before working on it and he did not apply portable earths.

If Kenning had taken one of the three safety precautions, his death would not have occurred, the findings say.

When colleague Marlon McLean arrived at the site, he was told by Kenning that safety processes had been completed.

He relied on Kenning as an experienced operator to have performed the appropriate checks, so he did not check the safety procedures were carried out, the findings say.

While the system controllers and linemen were competent, the "relaxed approach" taken was deficient.

The coroner recommended introducing a tailgate meeting, which required employees to brief each other on the worksite and discuss potential dangers.

It was not sufficient for a less experienced worker to defer to a more experienced colleague, and if a tailgate meeting had been held between McLean and Kenning, the dangers would have been identified and addressed, he said.

He also recommended PowerNet and others within the industry investigate the possibility of having at least two people attend faults to ensure a cross-check was undertaken.

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- The Southland Times

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