WORKMEN could have been killed when tress cut through a major high voltage line while in a separate incident a digger bucket became entangled in another electrical line cutting supply to some 2,500 homes and businesses across Fermanagh.
The two private contractors escaped injury last Thursday and Friday after the incidents cut electricity supply to NIE (Northern Ireland Electricity) customers in Kinawley and Ballinamallard.
The “avoidable” incident prompted NIE to issue a stark warning to contractors over future planning near networks.
On Thursday contractors cutting trees for a Ballinamallard landowner felled trees across a high voltage line, breaking the line and leaving over 1,400 homes and businesses without power.
The next day contractors, who were clearing ditches near the primary school in Kinawley, hit and damaged a high voltage line, leaving the digger bucket entangled in the line.
NIE emergency crews responded, assessing the damage and carrying out repairs.
Liam Roche, of Roche’s Bar in Kinawley, was one of the many businesses affected by the power cut.
He told the Fermanagh Herald: “The power was out for around an hour and a half last Friday from 11am. All of the lights were off, the coolers and the tills were off too.
While the cooler will operate for around an hour on its own, it still doesn’t help.
Customers were in the bar just after it happened but I could still serve them. Luckily, a lot of businesses on the main street are served by the electrical lines underground so we haven’t been that badly affected or had too many problems over the years.”
Fiona McClintock, NIE Customer Relations Manager for the area, says both these incidents were avoidable.
“Anyone considering work near the network should plan ahead to ensure your work does not bring you, or anyone on site, into contact with the overhead or underground electricity network.
Both these contractors could easily have been killed and the contact with the network could have been avoided if safe working practices had been followed.
“Vehicles and equipment don’t have to touch lines to become live as electricity can jump gaps.
They can remain live at dangerously high voltages until NIE engineers carry out a safety isolation. I cannot stress strongly enough the need for caution when working near electricity equipment – electricity can kill if the correct safety procedures are ignored.”
“NIE currently offers contractors and lorry drivers a wide range of advice and assistance to help them avoid both overhead lines and underground cables including advice leaflets, videos and maps and diagrams of the electricity network.”
The majority of customers were reconnected to electricity supply shortly after 12.30pm with the remaining switched on by 1.10pm and the rest of the customers at 3.25pm.
“We have had a lot of third party damage and that’s why we promote safe working practices,” she concluded.
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