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Live Power Lines and Fatigue!

What happens when a safety conscious machine operator, recovering from a two week-long illness, works 9 hours in a high-risk, high-concentration task?

NOGGIN INC1204 23/07/2018 (3:00pm) – Property Damage.

Description – A machine operator, having successfully completed a day of felling around live power lines, noticed that he still had the RT belonging to the road controllers.  Distracted, and momentarily forgetting about the power line, the operator proceeded to walk the machine down an old haul track. He suddenly heard a loud bang and immediately realised he had hit the power line with the boom of the machine.

Learning from our Fatigue Science Project!

Contributing Factors – The investigation identified three areas of interest:

  • Using the old haul track that was positioned in the standing trees was not identified as a potential risk – this could have been isolated with a physical barrier to prevent inadvertent use!
  • The operator was recovering from a cold and had not been sleeping. This was unknown to the principal Contractor. Interestingly, our Fatigue Science Project has also made us aware that fatigue levels rise and are at their most critical point just after work finishes and especially for machine operators who have been working at high-risk, high concentration tasks.  This incident shows the importance of communicating about any matter that could impact upon our physical capabilities and the organisation of work.  Practically, fatigue situations may be averted/lessened by spreading the load e.g. by ‘substituting in’ fresh workers or by ‘limiting the time’ a worker/operator can spend completing a high-risk, high concentration task.
  • For the operator, having to return a radio became the focus and a distraction – essentially an upset condition.  Encourage workers to ‘take 5’ rather than give in to impulsive decision making.

View this article in Safety Bulletin 114