Sarawak Energy Underground Cable Damage Cause of Wednesday Power Outage in Kuching

Zero Tolerance Towards Negligent Third-Party Contractors

KUCHING, 30 AUGUST 2019, FRIDAY: Negligent third-party contractors continue to be a major cause of power outages and damaged electrical assets in Sarawak as a direct result of their carelessness and lack of oversight, and must face the consequences of their irresponsible behaviour.

Sarawak Energy will charge these irresponsible contractors for damage incurred and will take strong action against them. The power provider will work with the Electricity Inspectorate Unit of the Ministry of Utilities and relevant authorities to ensure they receive the maximum penalty for their carelessness under the relevant rules and regulations.

In the latest incident caused by an errant works contractor, piling activities for pipe laying works near the junction of Jalan Masja and Jalan Astana affected power supply to a large number of customers in Kuching including key government offices at about 11.30am on Wednesday this week.

The outage affected government offices at Baitulmakmur and Customs Buildings, Courthouse, Vista Tunku, SMK Tun Hj Openg, Bukit Siol, Kpg Sg Bedil, SK Che Buyong, Jalan Hashim Jaafar, Jalan Merdeka, Kampung Lintang and SK Gersik.

Power supply was restored to most affected customers at noon but due to the extensive repairs required for the Masja 11kV substation, supply to Baitulmakmur building was only restored by 6.55pm that evening.

Concerned over the many recurring incidents and power interruptions due to damaged underground cables caused by third party excavation, Sarawak Energy utility arm, Syarikat SESCO Berhad (SESCO) CEO Lau Kim Swee said that the utility will not hesitate to charge the contractor for all costs incurred, including estimated revenue losses, and take other action.

“Despite checking with us on the cable route before they began the piling works, their supervision and safety precautions at site were lacking. Fortunately, none of the workers were injured,” said Lau.

“While this incident only resulted in a power supply interruption, the impact could have been much worse. We have seen incidents involving serious injuries and even fatalities when contractors’ staff are exposed to danger. This continues to happen despite all our safety alerts and warnings,” he continued.

A warning letter has been issued to the contracting parties and relevant agencies involved, and the Ministry of Utilities and Department of Occupational Safety and Health were informed of the incident.

Over the last 3 years, there have been 264 cases of cables damaged by third party contractors due to excavation and piling works, causing broken poles, broken overhead lines and lines struck by machinery, amongst others. The damage incurred has cost close to RM2.4 million.

“There have been too many avoidable incidents caused by irresponsible contractors. They have damaged our electricity supply system due to their negligence and disregard of safety procedures. We will go after maximum damages to send an unequivocal warning to all contractors that we will not tolerate this,” he said.

“Contractors must practice safety at worksite and to take all necessary precautions when working near underground cables and electrical power lines. In addition, they should not assume the location or the underground depth of the cables,” Lau said.

The law requires contractors to comply with the Electricity Ordinance, the Electricity Rules 1999 and the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994 when carrying out works within the vicinity of high-tension cable or other electrical infrastructure.

These rules and regulations ensure safety and health of all persons involved or affected by the activities, and require close monitoring and supervision by qualified personnel.

Measures taken by Sarawak Energy include briefing contractors at construction sites, issuance of warning letters and stop work orders to contractors who breach safety standards when working near live electricity cables.

Sarawak Energy has also issued advisories and reminders through print media, radio campaigns, exhibitions and other outreach programmes to educate stakeholders and the public.

The basic electrical safety guideline when working close to electrical installation is to keep at least 15 feet or 5 metres away from power lines. As for the general rule on underground cables, contractors are advised to check cable routes with Sarawak Energy to ensure their work site is safe.

Sarawak Energy urges third party contractors to work closely with them in planning consultation and precautionary actions when working close to electrical facilities to avoid incidents like these.

To avoid unnecessary inconvenience, contractors can contact Sarawak Energy's 24/7 Call Centre at 1300-88-3111 or email for assistance to check on cable routes or to notify on works near electrical infrastructures that require Sarawak Energy’s technical advice.

Damaged 11kV underground cables between the junction of Jalan Masja and Jalan Astana

Repair works in progress at site

Four other transformers were also affected due to this incident.