Sarawak Energy to get tough with “irresponsible” third-party contractors

Sarawak Energy’s Safety and Technical Team regularly conduct briefings with contractors on site.

KUCHING, August 8: Sarawak Energy will step up deterrent measures and penalties against third party contractors who damage underground cables and other related electricity infrastructure during excavation work at project sites.

Despite frequent engagements and awareness campaigns to inform contractors of the need to adhere to safety measures and to check underground cable routes before carrying out excavation works, many third party contractors ignored such calls.

Irresponsible and unsafe acts by these contractors often cause power supply interruptions, causing inconvenience to the public, warned Sarawak Energy.

“There are incidents where contractors still damage the cables even after our people have briefed them on the risks and informed them of the cable route,” said Sesco chief executive officer Lau Kim Swee, the utility arm of Sarawak Energy in a statement yesterday.

He advised main contractors or site supervisors to communicate clearly to the sub-contractors on site safety and the identified cable routes.

Contractors should check with Sarawak Energy on power-line depth before commencing work to ensure safety.

Other than site engagements, Sesco had also put up safety awareness messages through the media and distributed safety pamphlets at project sites, he explained.

“To ensure this does not continue, we will also hold the main contractor accountable and impose more stringent penalties to deter this unsafe practice from continuing. We are also considering pursuing civil action against errant contractors,” Lau said.

Lau said records showed an increasing trend of such incidents, occurring about 10 times a month across the state.

“This is too many and could have been avoided. This year alone, there have been 75 cases by third party contractors, which make 250 cases in the past two years. Repair works have accumulated to RM2.5 million,” Lau lamented.

He cited two recent incidents, both related to the Pan Borneo Highway works, which occurred in Betong on July 25 and in Sri Aman the following day.

In Sri Aman, a 33kV underground cable was damaged due to excavation works along the Pan Borneo Highway. It interrupted power supply to areas in Abok Kuari, Abok Sangan, Abok Pulau Batu and SK Abok.

This makes 11 cases recorded in Sri Aman division since January this year. In cases where the damage is extensive, the power interruptions also affected water treatment plants, leaving people without electricity and water for long hours, the statement continued.

In Betong, damage to a 33kV high tension cable due to work on the Pan Borneo Highway left residents in Matop, Penunus and Rapong without power for three hours.

The worst case this year occurred in May when a 33kV underground cable in Kapit was struck by an excavator during drainage work. The incident caused loss of supply to about 5,500 customers for long hours and led to recurring power trips to the affected areas due to the extensive damage.

Near-miss incident in Tatau on May 25 this year, when a lorry driver escaped death after the crane touched one of the 33kV overhead lines.

“We are currently pursuing maximum penalties possible under the law on the incident in Kapit. There is also a provision under the Electricity Ordinance that allows us to bring the contractor to court.

“Contractors found guilty under Section 33(9)(b) of the Electricity Ordinance are liable to a fine of RM50,000 and/or five years’ imprisonment for the damage to the electrical system,” Lau said.

He pointed out the contractors’ continued ignorance or disregard of the importance of safety at construction sites, citing a recent incident in Tatau, where a lorry driver was fortunate to have escaped with minor burns on his hand when the crane he was operating made contact with a 33kV overhead line.

“Such dangerous incidents could be avoided if everyone puts safety as their top priority, especially while working close to electrical installations. A safe distance to work near power lines is at least 4.5 meters (15 ft),” Lau stressed.

Despite the challenges, Sarawak Energy continues with its mission to provide renewable, reliable and affordable energy to advance the state’s development plan.

Contractors should contact Sarawak Energy Customer Care Centre at 1300-88-3111 or email before commencing any excavation works to ensure the safety of their personnel at the worksite. — DayakDaily