Building near powerlines dangerous

Eskom notes an escalation in homes being built within power line servitudes without Eskom approval. This is not only against Eskom regulations but also poses several safety risks. Eskom therefore appeals to the public to stop doing this.

The land below and adjacent to a power line is called a servitude. This servitude belongs to the relevant landowner in that area, but Eskom has sole right to this land since Eskom must maintain and fix that line from time to time.

“The perception that power lines are harmless due to their size and overhead distance could not be more wrong. 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 high current to flow down to the ground. If somebody is close to the line, fault current can flow through the person and kill him or her. 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 incidences where residents have been injured due to metal objects that have encounter live electricity. Metal is a particularly good 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 Eskom’s 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. Often too, Eskom staff need 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 machinery to maintain its power lines, such as big trucks, which require enough space to access the structure. Eskom also 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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