Essential Energy to Stop Santa in Moruya - advice warns that street light poles might be live with 2

Essential Energy have advised that Moruya street light poles might be live to touch by pedestrians and will not permit the erection, by Moruya Chamber volunteers, of street banners or town Christmas lights unless further expensive safety steps are taken.

Above: Moruya Business Chamber is calling on Essential Energy to immediately place these stickers on all Moruya streetlights until they can guarantee there is no risk of electrocution to passers by touching the poles

Moruya Business Chamber recently requested permission to install the latest round of town banners they proudly display celebrating the town and its many events throughout the year. The vibrant banners are attached to the poles on private attachments paid for by the chamber for the purpose of display and have been in place for several years. As per what the Chamber believed were standard protocols a proforma application was forwarded to Essential Energy’s Electrical Safety Office for review. In the application they included method statements, risk assessments and insurance details. The very same details that had been provided time and time again for their installations. But this time Essential Energy said NO advising the outcome of its review of the application, as submitted, “cannot be approved”.

Essential Energy indicated that it now had concerns regarding the use of a purpose built aluminium platform to complete the installation process. This platform has been used for many years and previously approved.

They wrote to the Moruya Business Chamber “Essential Energy’s top priority is the safety of its employees, contractors and the public around its electricity distribution network. We cannot approve this year’s application when it advises that a non-conductive ladder is being used” In essence Essential Energy are now stipulating that Moruya Business Chamber have to have a new purpose built fiberglass platform built (at an estimated cost of $10,000) for fear that a volunteer might become alive from touching the light pole during the installation of the banners. This is indeed alarming news and of immediate public concern as it appears that Essential Energy cannot guarantee that the 13 street lights, supplied from an underground power source, are safe for members of the public to touch. Some background on the issue for the sake of clarity. Eurobodalla Council undertook street scaping of the Moruya CBD. Overhead power lines were removed to underground lines and 13 standalone street lights were set in place supplied from an underground power source. The townscape looked fresh and uncluttered. Seeing an opportunity to showcase and celebrate the town the Moruya Business Chamber paid for the addition of purpose made brackets to be added to the new street light poles enabling them to hang banners and the all-important Christmas decorations.

By agreement they now had access to 13 very specifically noted and numbered structures in Moruya’s main street

The light poles stand tall and the brackets are only half way up. In terms of safety for Chamber volunteers they were well clear by 6m of the light head on the pole. Being powered from underground the light poles have no external conductors or wires. These lights have circuit breakers protecting each light at the base of the pole

The very popular Christmas decorations that Moruya is well known for are lit by a connection to a pre-approved, pre-existing 2 pin socket using a safe Low Voltage 12v system on the poles. Each pole has their own individual 12v supply. The transformer which feeds these circuits was installed with all appropriate safety equipment circuit breakers on each pole at the time of installation.

To err on the side of safety as the lights and banners are half way up the street light poles the platform the Moruya Chamber are using was purpose built for this specific project meeting all the safety standards with appropriate hand rails both on the stairs and the work platform. The platform has been assessed and deemed the most appropriate and safest form of access to perform the tasks of installing banners, the Christmas decorations or to plug in the 12v Christmas lights. There have been no incidents for the past 15 years. Further, a Volunteer fully accredited Level 2 Electrician is in attendance whilst this volunteer work is being done although no LIVE electrical work is undertaken.

All the Volunteers do not get paid they are doing this for the community and are happy to continue. They feel that all the relevant safety measures are more than adequate for them to work safely.

“Scroogy McScrooge face Essential Energy, is setting out to hogtie Moruya Christmas tinsel with broad-brush red tape” Irate Moruya business houses on hearing of the Essential Energy impost. And the comment from Essential Energy when asked to review their decision: “As indicated in previous correspondence, we suggest you consult with your Accredited Service Provider to seek advice on how they can complete the works whilst complying with all requirements as set out in the application document, CEOP8037 – Essential Energy Equipment, Painting or Installation of Private Attachments and in particular, but not limited to, section 5.2.1 of this Policy.” The news is spreading like wildfire throughout the business houses and the wider community and formed part of this week’s Business Chamber newsletter. Many feel that the poles should now be isolated with Para webbing until Essential Energy sign off saying that there is in fact no risk of being electrocuted if the light poles are touched. To learn that the street light poles might be live with 240v and that they now require a purpose built fiberglass platform for chamber members to install town banners is more than disconcerting and raises serious questions around the maintenance and safety of Essential Energy assets Until the poles are declared safe for both the public and Moruya Chamber volunteers to touch without protective insulation the community are advised to await an all clear and ensure that your Jack Russel doesn’t cock its leg on a street light pole. Letters have been sent to Essential Energy, Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Member for Bega, Andrew Constance and Minister John Barilaro - Deputy Premier & Minister for Regional New South Wales along with Don Harwin - Minister for Resources, Minister for Energy and Utilities voicing the community concerns. As yet there has been no response nor any confirmation of comprehensive safety checks being carried by Essential Energy.

Above: Justifying their concerns that only an insulated fiberglass platform be used to install the banners Essential Energy state in an email to the Moruya Business Chamber that the activity of installing these attachments is considered a workplace and as such specific requirements apply as set in the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017 (NSW) to prevent risk from Essential Energy’s assets which includes physical proximity to or contact with an asset, not just the electrical circuit component of the assets when in a workplace. Essential Energy's Regional Manager Southern, Sarah Roche provided the following statement to The Beagle "Essential Energy supports the Moruya Business Chamber with regards to the installation of attachments on identified street light columns in Vulcan Street, Moruya. "Essential Energy is committed to working with communities across regional and rural NSW. All work on or near the electricity network must comply with the Electrical Safety Rules, for the safety of workers and the general public. "As part of the approval for conducting a worksite on or near Essential Energy assets, the Moruya Business Chamber is required to comply with the same Electrical Safety Rules as any other body seeking to undertake similar work. "This position is supported by the Workplace Health and Safety Regulation 2017 (NSW). "We would be very happy to meet with the Moruya Business Chamber to further discuss their concerns with a view to providing a safe solution for the Chambers volunteers to install the attachments as requested."

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