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Like a bolt from the blue, Mother Nature strikes in the Wheatbelt

WA summer is often synonymous with sun, sea and sand.

However with bushfires one week and storms the next, summer’s weather patterns can be unpredictable. This adverse weather can bring damage to homes, businesses and parts of the electricity network. And like a bolt from the blue, literally, Mother Nature decided to give another unexpected visit, this time to crews in the Wheatbelt.

Matthew Spatcher, a lineworker in the Northam depot, was undertaking repair works resulting from storm damage when another front came through. While seeking shelter in nearby buildings and vehicles waiting for the storm to subside, Matthew managed to capture this remarkable photo of lightning striking the work site.

“Our crews have to contend with adverse weather conditions and the hazards involved with these,” says Nathon McMullen, a Field Supervisor in the Northam depot.

“These hazards can delay our response time as we need to make sure that the site and surrounding area is safe before we commence or resume work.”

The safety hazards from storms like these can cause delays in responding to power outages or being able to continue with planned operations.

As the onsite safety representative, Matthew liaised with Nathon who was at the depot closely monitoring weather radar and storm conditions. During fault escalations due to the weather, the field supervisor manages the crews and liaises with the network control centre as needed to manage the response. Nathon was in regular communication with the work crew and advised when the inclement weather had passed, making it safe for them to return to work. Before resuming work, the crew re-visited their Workplace Risk Assessment Plan and checked that all earthing was inspected to ensure the safety of the crew.

“It’s always safety first and our crews work hard to ensure people have secure and reliable access to power. With assistance from the depot, network control centre and regional management, the team achieved great results,” said Nathon.

The damage from December’s storms saw crews from Northam, Koorda, Moora, Merredin, Southern Cross and Kondinin undertake repair works with additional support from Perth metro crews where needed.

Any type of adverse weather, from blistering heatwaves to cold snaps, can cause disruptions to the power supply and delays in power restoration.

Although there are safety mechanisms built in to the network to cut power if damage is detected, never approach a fallen powerline or damaged pole. Always make the safe call and dial 13 13 51.

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