Linemen 'should pair up'

A coroner has advised linemen to pair up when attempting work on power lines, after the electrocution of a man near Millers Flat.

Delta lineman Roger Steel died on December 9, 2010, when the power pole he was working on fell sideways.

Mr Steel, who had tied himself to the pole with a safety harness, suffered electrical shocks and burns, as well as multiple severe injuries, when the pole hit the ground.

He was working alone on the pole, which had been identified as leaning but was not marked as unsafe.

Otago-Southland coroner David Crerar said in his report that the "working alone" policy had to be addressed to ensure linemen safety.

Working in pairs was not just about having someone to call for help in an emergency, but also allowed workers to discuss the best plan of attack, he said. "Two minds are better than one. Airline pilots work in pairs, not because either has insufficient ability or experience, but to ensure that decisions are joint and peer-reviewed."

He also recommended Delta adopt more thorough notifications of hazards, and clearer marking of unsafe power poles.

At the time of Mr Steel's death, the company only attached red tags, which identified the pole as unsafe, to wooden poles because of difficulties attaching tags to concrete poles.

Mr Crerar said all suspect power poles should be marked so workers were still aware of the dangers if other hazard notification methods failed.

In 2011, Delta Utility Services was fined $75,000 after pleading guilty to failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of all employees while at work.

Since the accident, Delta had introduced measures to improve safety, including attaching red tags to concrete poles, Mr Crerar said.

He suggested his findings be forwarded to the Electrical Engineers' Association for wider distribution through the industry, to prevent similar deaths.

Mr Steel's widow, Karyn, said the coroner's report offered no surprises, but presented what needed to be said.

She felt the report would help instigate necessary changes in the industry.

The Southland Times