Illegal power connections continue to endanger lives, electricity parastatal Eskom said on Saturday.
“Many people continue to connect electricity illegally, ignoring warnings that electricity is extremely powerful and can be deadly if not treated with care and respect,” Eskom said in a statement.
A case in point was a community member who died while trying to connect electricity illegally to an Eskom structure in East London by throwing a piece of wire over the 11kV side of a transformer which was live.
“Connecting in this way is not only illegal but it is extremely dangerous. People making these connections are not qualified professionals and the connection does not have the required safety protection features, which consequently puts ordinary South Africans at risk,” Eskom corporate occupational health and safety senior manager Jace Naidoo said in the statement.
Despite the clearance of the electricity line at nine metres – within the allowed standard – a dangersign indicating the voltage rating on the structure, and having an anti-climbing device installed, the community member went ahead and connected illegally to the nearest point of electricity supply.
“As in many instances, we had put all our safety measures in place but these were ignored. This community member, who was trying to reconnect the transformer, ignored the dangers of what he was doing and it proved fatal,” Naidoo said.
Illegal connections were one of the leading causes of electricity-related injuries and deaths in South Africa and innocent children were the most common victims. An electricity connection was considered illegal when it was made to the Eskom network without Eskom’s permission.
Connecting to a mini-substation or overhead network in this way was illegal. These connections posed great risks as they overloaded the system and could lead to fires and electrocution.
“It’s also very disheartening that injuries and fatalities caused by illegal connections are completely avoidable. We had gone into the East London community a few months before this incident, warning them about the dangers of unsafe electricity usage; however, this death still occurred,” Naidoo said.
Eskom had conducted a large-scale electricity safety campaign in the area to deal with the high number of illegal connections they had found. During this period, the electricity supply was switched off and community members removed the illegal connections they found. The electricity was switched on again after that and Eskom revealed how they would provide electricity for members who did not have electricity.
“Illegal connections affect entire neighbourhoods. Eskom’s network has been designed in a way that it caters for a specific number of customers. If more electricity is drawn from one point this can lead to overloading that can make the power trip and can shorten the lifespan of equipment. We have an electrification programme in place for communities, and illegal connections force us to re-focus our efforts on these dangerous connections,” Naidoo said.
Eskom urged people not to connect illegally. “If you encounter an illegal connection, report it and avoid touching it to ensure that you and your family are safe. If you come across any illegal connections, report them to Eskom on 08600-37566 (Eskom) or SMS Crime Line on 32211.[Source: SABC]