Regional workforce at risk - Essential Energy to roll out more defibrillators

ESSENTIAL Energy has been accused of putting its regional workforce at risk by not rolling out life-saving defibrillators across its entire network.

The Electrical Trades Union says the company must act immediately to bring safety standards for its predominantly rural and regional workforce into line with metropolitan power companies.

The union last year commissioned independent research that found portable defibrillators were an effective, affordable and reliable way to prevent accidental deaths among the thousands of workers who carry out maintenance and repair work on the state’s electricity poles and wires.

ETU NSW assistant secretary Neville Betts said while Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy both responded with an immediate move towards rolling out the devices across their entire service area, Essential Energy, which operates the electricity network across 95 per cent of NSW, only agreed to trial 20 defibrillators in the Tamworth area.

He claims staff are furious that the company was “continuing to drag its heels”.

“This is a company that has thousands of employees ... across the state, often in places far from emergency services, yet they are being denied a life-saving device that has already been provided to their city counterparts,” Mr Betts said.

Yesterday, Essential Energy made assurances it would complete its deployment of defibrillators across its network, but conceded that was still more than six months away.

A spokesman for the company said 20 defibrillators had been deployed to selected depots in northern parts of NSW late last year as part of a staged rollout, following a review of defibrillator programs across the three NSW electricity distribution businesses: Essential Energy, Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy.

He said an evaluation of their performance was underway to determine the timing of the next stages of the program and how many would eventually be needed.

“The evaluation could take up to six months and will involve a thorough analysis of defibrillator take-out rates and specific operational requirements,” he said.

Mr Betts said defibrillators were affordable and should be placed on work trucks alongside other common safety equipment as soon as possible.

“Portable defibrillators only cost around $3000 per unit, which is not expensive when compared to other essential safety equipment carried by Essential Energy,” he said.

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