Bushfire prevention device proves life saving in Maryborough

ElectraNet Happy Valley

A bushfire prevention device operating on powerlines in Maryborough may have saved a life, after an excavator came into contact with high voltage lines last week.

Designed to prevent fires when objects such as tree branches fall on lines or when lines hit the ground, the device, known as a Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter (REFCL), identified what turned out to be contact with high voltage lines by heavy machinery.

When the excavator came into contact with the line, the REFCL device reduced voltage to the line within milliseconds, potentially saving the driver’s life and those lives of two other workers nearby.

Powercor lineworkers attended the scene to assess the safety of the line following the incident.

Related article: How bushfires impact on electricity networks

It’s understood the excavator operator only noticed he’d contacted the lines on the fifth occasion, when he noticed some tension in moving the excavator’s bucket.

Powercor REFCL technical director Andrew Bailey said the excavator operator and other workers were very lucky.

“This is a very fortunate incident that could have been a lot worse if not for the REFCL device protecting this line,” he said.

“While their primary purpose is bushfire prevention, this example highlights the safety benefit of these devices. Regardless, we urge all people to be aware of our assets when working near them and take the appropriate precautions.”

Energy Safe Victoria has a range of material available to help machinery operators stay safe around overhead lines. ESV’s ‘look up and live’ campaign urges plant operators to always be aware of their surroundings and watch for overhead lines.

Related article: NSW power network update

REFCL devices are being installed in some of the state’s highest bushfire-risk areas as directed by the Victorian Government’s program in response to recommendations from the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.

The REFCL devices are being rolled out in three phases, with the Maryborough device one of the first rolled-out statewide. The devices are installed in 10 locations across the Powercor network with a further five sites planned for this year.

“The REFCL devices are working and are already keeping communities safer,” Mr Bailey said.

The REFCL is just one of a series of safety devices on the network, designed to reduce bushfire risk and improve safety.

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