Eskom discourages building near power lines

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GK CRONJE

15 September 2020

Eskom staff needs to remove or replace pieces of equipment when they maintain these lines, and these pieces of equipment, which are often heavy, could fall on the dwellings or people below the line. Eskom uses various types of heavy machinery to maintain its power lines, which require enough space to access the structure.

Suzuki Ermelo (WEB) 22 September 2020.jp

Eskom has noted in a statement that it has seen an escalation in homes being built within power line servitudes, without Eskom approval. This is not only against Eskom regulations, but also poses a number of safety risks. Eskom appeals to the public to refrain from this illegal activity. The ground below and adjacent to a power line is called a servitude, and belongs to the relevant landowner in that area. However, Eskom has sole rights to this portion of land as they have to perform periodic maintenance or repairs. “The perception that power lines are harmless due to their size and overhead distance could not be more wrong. In order to ensure the safety of communities, residents are not allowed to live within power line servitudes, because it is almost impossible to ensure their safety,” says Miranda Moahlodi, Senior Manager for Occupational Health and Safety at Eskom.

Electricity transmitted or distributed on power lines can be up to 765 000 volts. A fault anywhere on the power line may cause very high current to flow down to the ground. If somebody is close to the line, fault current can flow through the person and instantly kill. Also, a conductor may break due to strong winds or bad weather, and land on a shack, house or a person, which could kill or seriously hurt the inhabitants. There have been incidents where residents have been injured due to metal objects that have come into contact with live electricity. Metal is a conductor of electricity, and there is a possibility of an arc to a shack built within a power line servitude. If lightning hits the line, as it does in many cases due to the height of a line, a flash of electricity may occur to the homes in the servitude. “If Chiefs or traditional authorities want to give pieces of land to their people and these stands are in an Eskom servitude, they must speak to the local Eskom office. The traditional leaders and Eskom can then together make sure that all the people get pieces of land away from the power lines, ensuring their safety,” continues Moahlodi. At the same time, developers should make sure that the required clearance is maintained when access roads are built crossing servitudes.

Beyond the direct safety issues this can cause, building close to power lines makes it difficult for Eskom to conduct infrastructure inspections, which can affect the supply of power in an area and hinder the early detection of issues that could cause major damage. In many cases, Eskom staff needs to remove or replace pieces of equipment when they maintain these lines, and these pieces of equipment, which are often heavy, could fall on the dwellings or people below the line. Eskom uses various types of heavy machinery to maintain its power lines, which require enough space to access the structure. Eskom also often uses helicopters to perform live line maintenance, and as such it becomes risky to the people living under the lines. “We hope that the public will heed this call and assist us by only building in designated areas that have been approved by the local municipality and government. We will continue to educate communities about electricity safety, ensuring that we all use electricity safely and responsibly, remains one of our central goals.” Moahlodi concludes.

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