BURNT WRECK: The dunder tanker came in contact with the high-voltage power line when it raised a boom Les Durnsford said.
BURNT WRECK: The dunder tanker came in contact with the high-voltage power line when it raised a boom Les Durnsford said.

Workplace incident prompts calls for change

EXCLUSIVE: A CANE farmer wants Ergon Energy to review the height requirements of overhead powerlines after a contractor narrowly escaped death in a workplace incident.

Yalboroo property owner Les Durnsford had employed a contractor on his farm who was driving a dunder truck which struck the low-hanging lines in a paddock.

The contact sent 11,000 volts surging through the truck's cab, setting the tyres alight.

The contractor, stuck inside the electrified cab, made a split-second decision and leapt from the burning wreck, which Mr Durnsford said saved the worker's life.

Yalboroo cane farmer Les Durnsford said he raised concerns over the line with Ergon over a number of years.
Yalboroo cane farmer Les Durnsford said he raised concerns over the line with Ergon over a number of years.

Mr Durnsford said he raised concerns about the low-hanging line to Ergon in 2015 and reported it in 2018 and again this year.

After every complaint, Mr Durnsford said Ergon workers visited the paddock and determined the lines met designated height requirements.

"It was a situation (the contractor) shouldn't have been in," he said.

"Five years is a long time to wait to get something done about it.

"My son contacted them and said that it was dangerous and this wire was too close to the big machinery."

Mr Durnsford said it was the dunder truck's boom which hit the line.

"When you're operating you only have to have a lapse for five seconds to be in trouble," he said.

BURNT WRECK: The dunder tanker came in contact with the high-voltage power line when it raised a boom Les Durnsford said.
BURNT WRECK: The dunder tanker came in contact with the high-voltage power line when it raised a boom Les Durnsford said.

Canegrowers chairman Kevin Borg said the industry body worked hand-in-hand with Ergon Energy to ensure safety.

"It is up to the grower to keep to limits and keep to exclusion zones," Mr Borg said.

"With Ergon, I've said time and time again there has to be two sides to this, two parties. Not just the growers need to abide by rules and exclusion zones.

"(Ergon) need to exercise some caution and start to improve the assets to keep in mind industry is expanding with bigger gear and bigger machinery."

Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan said he found it "amazing" Ergon did not raise the wire.

"Ergon was advised of a potential problem with low-hanging powerlines but failed to take corrective action."

An Ergon Energy spokeswoman said the incident was under investigation by the Electrical Safety Office and the company would not be making a comment.


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