Powerline maintenance - difficulty accessing rural properties (March 2015)

Meters, poles, wires and pipes
Case Number 2015/149
Outcome Conciliation

The Issue

Mr G was dissatisfied after his electricity distribution company cut a security chain to gain access to his property and repair overhead lines on 18 December 2014. Mr G found himself locked out of his property after the company used a different lock to re-secure the chain on exiting the property. Mr G immediately contacted the company to resolve the issue.

The company explained that it had tried to contact him to gain access to the property without success, and that it needed to maintain electricity assets on his property to ensure that the property was fire safe. It explained that gaining access to large properties in regional areas is an ongoing challenge for its maintenance crews. Dissatisfied with the response, Mr G contacted EWOV.

We raised an Assisted Referral on 5 January 2015, but Mr G returned to EWOV on 6 February 2015 after the company failed to contact him within the agreed timeframe.

The Investigation

We progressed the case to Real Time Resolution (RTR) on 5 February 2015, and the company confirmed:

  • it entered Mr G’s property on 18 December 2014, however, the crews did not specifically recall attending his property as they visited several properties in the area over a short period of time
  • generally, crews are instructed to make contact with property owners prior to entering properties, but this is not always possible. If a customer is not available and it cannot gain access any other way, the crew can remove a link from a chain and install an industry lock with a notification tag when leaving
  • the maintenance carried out on this date was to service the overhead lines and minimise associated fire risk
  • Mr G is required to provide access to the network assets as outlined in clause 3.3 of the Electricity Distribution Code.

Mr G understood the company's position and why access was necessary, however, to eliminate the possibility of the situation recurring, he requested that it:

  • provide him with a power industry padlock with a key, or, ensure that site managers contact him before accessing the property
  • replace the shortened chain
  • provide a direct contact should this issue recur.

The case was escalated to an Investigation after a response was not received from the company by 11 February 2015. The company, however, quickly responded to the investigation process and a resolution was agreed to by both the company and Mr G.

The Outcome

The company apologised for the inconvenience caused and explained that it takes its responsibilities when accessing private properties very seriously. The company advised that the appropriate area managers were reminded about the correct procedures of gaining entry to Mr G's property and will contact him where possible prior to any future visits. The company provided Mr G with:

  • $150 to purchase a new power industry lock and chain
  • a direct contact should he have any questions or concerns in the future.

Mr G was satisfied with the resolution and the case was closed on 26 February 2015.

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