The Electrical Trades Union has welcomed a decision by Essential Energy to commence a rollout of 186 portable defibrillators at work depots and offices across New South Wales.
The union said the devices, which will be taken on the road by crews as they carry out maintenance and repair work on the electricity poles and wires, had the potential to save lives in a dangerous industry.
ETU NSW Secretary Steve Butler said the union had been campaigning for defibrillators to become a core safety item on all electricity network trucks following the tragic death of Essential Energy worker Trevor Tooze on the mid-North Coast in September last year.
“Trevor was working on an upgrade of high-voltage power lines when an electric shock stopped his heart,” Mr Butler said.
“His colleagues performed CPR, but because of the remoteness of the work site it took more than half an hour for an ambulance to arrive.
“The first thing paramedics did was place a defibrillator on him, but unfortunately it had already been too long, and they were unable to resuscitate him.
“A portable defibrillator on his work truck would have allowed treatment within minutes, which research shows would have greatly increased his chances of survival.”
Mr Butler said the union had commissioned independent research showing that portable defibrillators could make the difference between life and death, as well as meeting with former Energy Minister Chris Hartcher and lobbying power companies to act.
“Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy were quick to act, procuring and deploying an additional 135 defibrillator units for their field staff last year,” he said.
“Despite having the largest network area — totaling more than 200,000 kilometres of power lines across the state — Essential Energy instead chose to conduct a small trial in one part of the state, delaying their rollout for more than six months.
“Regional power workers are at a greater risk of preventable death caused by electric shocks because many of their work sites are in remote areas, far from medical assistance.”
Mr Butler said the union was continuing its campaign on the issue, saying that to deliver the highest level of protection there should be a portable defibrillator on every electricity truck.