GRAIN Producers SA have met with SA Power Networks to help reduce on-farm accidents involving power infrastructure, after a spike in machinery collisions this year sparked industry concern.
Industry have cited that consistent challenges for growers while navigating through paddocks that are home to many Stobie poles and power lines, has prompted GPSA chief executive officer Brad Perry to take the lead on the issue.
On the ground, Mr Perry said it was a "big" issue that had increased each year.
"It is important to not underestimate how difficult it is to navigate through paddocks during seeding or harvesting.
"We need to investigate the reasons for the incidents and have a bigger discussion."
Talks about forming an industry working group with SA Power Networks representatives was a main outcome from the meeting.
Creating a space to "directly" discuss the issue and determine how to better collaborate together, is crucial according to Mr Perry.
"We are not sure what the collaboration will look like, its early days but we do know that we have reached a point to say this is an issue that needs to be addressed now," he said. But as with all layered industry issues, there is "no silver bullet", says Mr Perry.
"Why machinery clashes with power infrastructure needs to be looked at," he said. A positive response from SA Power Networks meant Mr Perry was confident about a mutual understanding of the issue.
"Feedback from growers about accidents has increased and I relayed that to SA Power Networks," he said.
In the short term, the working group will look at reflective signs and other power infrastructure safety indicators.
But updating power infrastructure location on farms, was a "challenging" long term goal.
"That is a pretty big financial commitment." Safety flashpoints to highlight risks will be the first step and SA Power Networks will meet with the GPSA board to discuss options in the coming weeks.
THE cost to farmers after an accident involving power infrastructure on-farm can be "astronomical" according to industry and with incidents on the rise, many want to see changes to legislation.
Grower concern about the calculation process to determine the cost of damage had increased, according to GPSA chief executive officer Brad Perry.
"Exactly how the costs are generated for the damage bills which are sent to growers can be unclear. Depending on the situation, some can be astronomical," he said.
"It is under legislation that when electricity is impacted after an accident, that cost is passed onto the grower."
But, there are questions about how many homes are actually impacted and left without power.
"If it is calculated per house, how is that determined and is it based on length of time without power," Mr Perry said.
Despite growers generally being insured to cover the bill from SA Power Networks, the affect on insurance premiums was also a "sore point", according to Mr Perry.
Telowie farmer Henry Mudge has been on the "wrong end" of power infrastructure accidents.
"We have about three paddocks with many Stobie poles that have three power lines stretched across the entire paddock," Mr Mudge said.
"We have had a few accidents but a lot of near misses that could have resulted in a lot of damage."
Dodging power lines was not easy, says Henry, but other power infrastructure is posing more of a threat during summer.
"We also have power poles with transformers. While reaping last year, after dodging about nine poles, we noticed a fire," he said.
The fire was caused by a transformer setting the stubble alight, according to Mr Mudge, and if the fire went unnoticed, the farm house would have burned down.
SA Power Networks' Paul Roberts was keen to tackle on-farm safety incidents involving powerlines and explore future options.
"We will be looking to develop targeted, cost-effective solutions that are supported by our community and ultimately which are capable of being approved by the Australian Energy Regulator which determines our revenue," he said.
"We also are keen to continue our campaign to raise awareness amongst the farming community of the very real risk posed by powerlines and the need to assess that risk before commencing farm related tasks."
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