Unloading electrocution

A man died on Saturday, while unloading building materials with a telescopic loader crane on the site of a new home in the Auckland suburb of Greenhithe, New Zealand.

The man, Wesley Talakai, parked his truck on the sloping site under the overhead power lines that ran along the front of the plot. He had successfully unloaded the first two loads but on the third load - carrying a long plastic wrapped stack of material - the four section boom must have came too close to the power lines causing the electric to arc onto the crane boom and straight down through the operator throwing him around a metre from the truck and almost certainly instantly ending his life.

A man living next door to the site, said: “I was watching the rugby with some friends on Saturday afternoon when the power went off. One of my friends went outside and called out to us and I saw a guy lying dead on the ground by the site. He was a big bloke but had been thrown around three or more metres.”

WorkSafe has confirmed it had been notified of the incident and is, we assume, investigating. In the meantime, the Crane Association of New Zealand has issued a bulletin on the incident - click here to see it.

The incident had an odd twist in that a local contact, who is reliable and ‘in the know’ has told us that the operator had identified that there were power lines in the vicinity and had discussed the placement of the load away from the powerlines with his employer who had told him to place the ‘Packet’ of building material away from the lines. They had discussed a lift plan that avoided the need to take the crane near the live power lines. We are also told that both of them had taken and passed a crane operation training course in March, which included the dangers of operating a crane in the vicinity of power lines.

If the above is true then it could be a case of making sound plans and then finding that the plan will not actually work due to something unforeseen when planning. Once on site the operator either finds an equally good alternative or decides the risk is low as long as he is careful.

We will chase this investigation and update when we learn more.