Eskom urges public not to build structures below high-voltage powerlines

Structures impacting maintenance of powerlines

A scrapyard built under a high-voltage line

19th February 2024

By: Tasneem Bulbulia

Senior Contributing Editor Online


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State-owned utility Eskom has noticed an escalation in homes and other structures being built within power line servitudes, which is the land below and adjacent to a power line.

“This is not only against Eskom regulations but also poses a number of safety risks. We therefore appeal to the public to stop doing this,” Eskom has emphasised in a statement.

Servitudes belong to the relevant landowner in that area, but Eskom has sole right to this land as it must maintain and fix that line from time to time, the utility explains.

“The common belief that power lines are harmless because of their size and distance from the ground must be corrected. It is challenging to ensure the safety of those who live within power line servitudes, and residents are prohibited from doing so to protect the safety of communities,” says Eskom occupational hygiene and safety senior corporate manager Miranda Moahlodi.

Electricity transmitted or distributed on power lines can be up to 765 000 V. A fault anywhere on the power line may cause very high current to flow down to the ground. If somebody is close to the line, the current can flow through the person and kill him or her, Eskom points out, adding that the line may break owing to strong winds or bad weather and land on the structure or house built within the servitude, which could kill or seriously hurt the inhabitants.

There have also been incidences where residents have been injured owing to metal objects that have come into contact with live electricity. Metal is a very good conductor of electricity and there is a possibility of an arc to a structure built within a power line servitude.

If lightning hits the line, as it does in many cases due to the height of a line, a flashover of electricity may occur to the homes in the servitude, Eskom points out.

“If Chiefs or traditional authorities want to give pieces of land to their people and these stands are close to an Eskom servitude, they must speak to the local Eskom office. The traditional leaders and Eskom can then together ensure that all the people are allocated land away from the power lines, ensuring their safety,” Moahlodi says.

Eskom also urges developers to ensure the required clearance is maintained when access roads are built crossing the utility’s servitudes.

Beyond the direct safety issues this can cause, building close to and or under power lines makes it difficult for Eskom to conduct infrastructure inspections, which can affect the supply of power in an area and hinder the early detection of issues that could cause major damage, the utility warns.

It adds that Eskom staff often need to remove or replace pieces of equipment when they maintain or strengthen these lines, and these pieces of equipment, which are often heavy, could fall on the dwellings or people below the line.

Eskom uses various types of machinery to maintain its power lines, such as big trucks, which require enough space to access the structure. It also uses helicopters to perform live line maintenance, and as such it becomes risky to the people living under the lines, the utility warns.

“We hope that the public will heed this call and assist us by only building in designated areas that have been approved by the local municipality and government. We will continue to educate communities about electricity safety – ensuring that we all use electricity safely and responsibly,” Moahlodi says.   

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online




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