05 May 2024  |   07:45am IST

DANGEROUS JOB

The death of a lineman Manoj Zambaulikar in Bicholim recently, sent shockwaves across the State. The alarming number of deaths of linemen in Goa for the last five years has put the spotlight on safety of linemen. From January 1, 2019 till date, 15 linemen have died while on duty, including electrocution, with five deaths recorded in 2023 alone. The government has been accused of giving lip service to safety of linemen and a nominal compensation to the family of the deceased each time. Time and again there have been demands to make the high tension powerline repairs safe for the linemen, but apparently nothing has changed. VITHALDAS HEGDE delves into the issue to find out the safety status of these linemen and what needs to be done to ensure their safety
DANGEROUS JOB

The tragic incident of a death of a lineman/wireman of the electricity department due to electrocution while carrying out repair work at 

Bicholim last month, has raised enough concern about the safety precautions by the staff of the department.

The tragedy occurred when the company started an inverter unit resulting in reverse power surge. Duae to this, the lineman got electrocuted and his body was stuck on the lines on top of the electricity pole.a

The inquiry revealed that the staff had discontinued the power supply to the pole in which the repair work was on. But the electricity supply was resumed before the linemen completed the work and climbed down.

Hurt by the death of the young lineman, people vented out their anger at Valshi, Bicholim. A huge agitated crowd shouted wrestled with the police. In many cases the family members of the victims stage impromptu protests, but the electricity department engineers claimed that in most of the cases the linemen got without personal protective equipment (PPE) and cause mishaps. 

It is utmost essential to ensure safety protocols and that preventive measures are strictly followed to prevent such tragedies in the future. After the accident occurred, the Electricity Department constituted a committee to visit the spot, investigate and find out the exact reason of the incident. Also as per the norms of the department’s procedure the electrical inspector was intimated within 24 hours of the accident. The electrical inspector too visits the site and submits a report. 

The electrical inspector is an independent body and it will conduct an independent probe and submit its report. Every fatal accident is investigated by the department.

From the electricity Inspector side, the inspection is done and a report is submitted with the reasons of the incident as to what went wrong and what are the suggestions and recommendations. It is the body which is supposed to conduct an independent inquiry. As far as our department is concerned there is a safety officer who conducts the inquiry.  Then the file is put up before the higher authorities.

 According to acting Chief Electrical Engineer Rajiv Samant, The Electricity aDepartment has issued time and again acirculars and instructions. Accidents can happen with department staff, contractual staff and to a common man. Both, the department staff and coantractual have to take precautions. 

“First thing is that they have to do earthing for the place where they are working. Then they should wear safety equipment while carrying out repair work. There can be accidents to a common mana The department staff must know the system. They should ensure that there is a proper power shut down and then they should go to work,” Samant said.

“Proper procedure has to be followed. Whatever precautions which have been prescribed by the department should be followed. All the staff working under the Electricity Department are being provided with all safety equipment. This year also it has been given to them. It is given to them every alternate year. We give a safety kit which contains hand gloves, testers, etc,” he said.

Samant said that the internal committee has also submitted its report and it is being examined. In the meantime the department immediately paid ex-gratia of Rs 7 lakh to the family so that they are secured. 

“We will also pay them Rs 20 lakh as per the new policy – The Goa Electricity Department Compensation Scheme. This will be paid from the corpus fund of the State government,” he said.

Electricity department Superintending Engineer (Planning), Mayur Hede, said, “We have been appealing to linemen to use safety equipment because they are working on electrical power lines and get exposed to greater electrical hazards. They have to take safety precautions because their exposure to electrical hazards is greater than anyone else’s. If safety precautions are taken accidents will not occur.”

In order to make them aware of electrical hazards, the department recently conducted highest number of training programmes for staff on safety and first-aid at its Ponda training centre. 

“Besides our own internal faculty we also invited faculty from Rural Electrification Corporation Ltd (RÉC), Tata Power DDL, National Power Training Institute and Indian Red Cross Society. As many as 1,070 staff including executive engineer to linemen were trained. This is the best the department can do and which we have done,” Hede said.

The department has also prepared three videos in Konkani on safety precautions. The government has recently approved the Goa Electricity Department Compensation Scheme for line staff of the department. 

Under the scheme, if the linemen dies and suffer total disability while on duty, then the kin of the family will be paid Rs 20 lakh and in case of partial disability a sum of Rs 11.25 lakh will be paid.

So far family of four linemen have been paid compensation under the new scheme which will be approved soon. After the accident, a delegation of social activists met the Superintending Engineer Mayur Hede and demanded lodging of FIR against those responsible for the death of the lineman/wireman. 

Activist Xencor Polgi said, “We met Superintending Engineer Mayur Hede and demanded FIR against those who were negligent and responsible for the death of the linemen/wireman. We also demanded that compensation be paid to the family immediately and to ensure that the staff on dutya wear safety equipment.”

“The Superintending Engineer has assured us that the department will take stern action against any lineman found working without safety equipment and if it is brought to their notice,” Polgi said.

IDhar UDHAR

Idhar Udhar