The NSW Government has been urged to facilitate a state-wide roll out of defibrillators across the publicly-owned electricity network following several preventable deaths and near-misses in recent years.
The Electrical Trades Union has met with NSW Energy Minister Chris Hartcher to present him with detailed, independent research that has found portable defibrillators provide an effective, affordable, reliable opportunity to prevent accidental deaths among the thousands of workers who carry out dangerous maintenance and repair work, often on live wires.
The union has also asked the Minister to convene an industry taskforce to develop a consistent approach to the roll out of defibrillators in all four publicly-owned companies in the electricity sector.
ETU NSW secretary Steve Butler said the campaign had been given greater urgency following the death of electrical worker Trevor Tooze on September 2, while workin g on the mid-North Coast.
“Trevor was an experienced Essential Energy employee, working on an upgrade of high-voltage power lines, when an electric shock stopped his heart,” Mr Butler said.
“His colleagues performed CPR until an ambulance arrived, but because of the remoteness of the work site it took more than half an hour for help to get there.
“The first thing the paramedics did was place a defibrillator on him, but unfortunately it had been too long, and they were unable to resuscitate him.
“A portable defibrillator on his work truck would have allowed him to receive treatment within minutes, which the expert research says would have greatly increased his chances of survival.”
Mr Butler said while some companies are trialling a small number of defibrillators in the field, the ETU is campaigning for a broader roll out and a more consistent approach across the entire sector.
“Our industry has seen several preventable workplace deaths from cardiac arrest in recent years, with the remote nature of much of our work drastically reducing the chances of survival,” he said.
“Because we are often working on live power lines, including high voltage cables, workers in our industry are at substantially higher risk than most people in the Australian community.
“Electricity is the sixth biggest workplace killer in Australia, and even a small shock can lead to cardiac arrest and death.
“But unlike other workplace accidents, quick action and access to a portable defibrillator provides the chance to prevent these deaths, with colleagues actually able to bring a co-worker back to life.
“With each machine costing as little as $3000 to install, we believe it is a tiny price to pay to potentially save a life.”
The ETU commissioned independent, detailed research, which found that installing defibrillators on electricity network trucks is not only practical and affordable, it offers the potential to reduce deaths in the electricity industry.
“We know that defibrillators have the potential to save lives, which is why we are calling for them to be installed on each and every work truck across the network,” Mr Butler said.
“Most importantly, we want a consistent approach across the sector, so all workers have additional protection from the danger of electric shock, not just those at certain companies.”