“Look up and live,” is a notable quote when it comes to powerline safety all over the world. It is easy to say, but in practice it can be difficult for workers to see powerlines and recognize the danger.
“I knew that powerline was there, I just didn’t see it!” I hear this phrase almost every day from workers who have been extremely lucky to survive an accidental contact with overhead powerlines. Usually the machinery is not so lucky with tremendous damage to tires, hydraulics and electrical elements of the vehicle.
Why does this Happen?
Why do these incidents occur so regularly when the powerline infrastructure is so visible, and why don’t people see them? Have you ever missed seeing a cyclist when arriving at an intersection? Why didn’t you see them? Were you looking for vehicles or a cyclist? Despite what most people think, our eyes do not work like a video camera capturing everything and sending that info to our brain. If you haven’t identified what you are looking for it can be easily overlooked and is known as “inattentional blindness.” Inattentional blindness occurs when the brain is focused on a specific task, and the eyes and brain miss a fully visible hazard, such as powerlines.
Let’s talk about underground powerlines for a second. Underground powerlines are not visible but are damaged far less often, why is that? It’s because we cannot see them so we then formulate a plan to work safely near them by using tools such as One Call / 811 or Dial/Click Before You Dig. Formulating a simple plan helps us identify the hazard and has significantly reduced the chance of accidental contact with underground utilities.
So, what happens for overhead powerlines? Most businesses generally rely on workers to see the powerlines and identify the hazard when they arrive onsite. This is when inattentional blindness comes in, blocking the fully visible powerline to the worker until it’s too late.
This is where the Lookupandlive.com app has assisted in helping businesses and workers to allow forward planning and work safely near overhead powerlines. For example, construction companies can now investigate at the planning stages of a project what powerline hazards will be onsite and what controls, such as relocating or undergrounding of powerlines, may need to occur without holding up work (because we all know “time is money”). The lookupandlive.com app can also be used reactively for firefighters and emergency service workers to identify voltages and powerlines after an incident so they can be aware of the electrical hazard.
The lookupandlive.com app has been a successful innovation in Australia with many utilities in many states now sharing their powerline spatial data onto the app. The app has been accessed over 100,000 times in the last year and there have been 20,000 downloads of the app to devices.
The Lookupandlive.com app has received many innovation and safety awards and recently received the Safety Excellence Award at the Australian Workplace Health and Safety Awards in 2021.