Three serious errors prove fatal for lineman

LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 05:00 08/08/2014

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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 October 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 which led to Kenning's death.

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

He was working alone, in contact with telephone systems controllers, and although Kenning 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.

However, 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 did not check the safety procedures were done, the findings say.

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

Crerar 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, Crerar said.

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

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