Sarawak Energy Urges Safety First from Pan Borneo Highway Project Contractors

Works along route causing increase in power interruptions

KUCHING, 24 MAY 2019, FRIDAY – Damage to electrical facilities caused by construction work along the Pan Borneo Highway Project is increasing unplanned power supply disruptions, inconveniencing customers in the vicinity and jeopardising safety.

Sarawak Energy’s utility arm, Syarikat SESCO Berhad (SESCO) Chief Executive Officer Lau Kim Swee said the corporation is deeply concerned as safety incidents and unplanned supply interruptions continue to be recorded despite numerous engagements with the relevant third-party contractor parties on safe work practices near electrical installations along the project route.

From October 2016 to April 2019, Sarawak Energy recorded 210 unplanned outages related to Pan Borneo Highway Project works. This is in addition to the 488 planned shutdowns for shifting of poles and other related works over the same period.

“We have taken proactive measures by sending our technical teams to deliver safety briefings and to check on our infrastructure, in trying to ensure a safe working environment so nobody will be in harm’s way. However, safety related incidents are continuing to happen. In addition, these incidents are leading to an increase in the number of power interruptions,’’ he said.

Carelessness by contractors have resulted in damaged underground cables due to excavation works, broken and slanted poles, broken overhead lines as well as lines struck by machinery. In some cases, injuries have also been recorded.

Over the weekend, customers in Spaoh were subjected to two emergency shutdowns for two consecutive days due to damaged assets and unsafe conditions at Pan Borneo work sites.

At Enteban, an overhead line pole cracked and almost fell to the ground after being knocked by a lorry. At Lubok Antu Junction and Pentik, emergency shutdowns were necessary to repair slanted electricity poles due to the same cause posing a danger to the public especially road users.

At Roban on 8 May, more than 400 customers experienced an 8-hour outage when an underground cable was damaged by highway excavation works near the Roban junction. The pulling force of the accidentally excavated cable led to equipment leakage and subsequent power failure at Sarawak Energy’s Roban Bazaar 33/11KV substation. Technical teams mobilised from Sri Aman and Sarikei were able to contain the leakage and speed up repair and restoration works.

Areas affected included SMK Kalaka, Roban Post Office, Roban Clinic, Sg Anak, Plunga, Roban Lama, Lichok, Brayang, Bratong and Ulu Sebetan.

In Sri Aman Division, 51 cases affecting supply to customers were recorded over the last two and a half years.

Urging third party contractors to work closely with Sarawak Energy, Lau said that the incidents could be avoided if proper planning, consultation and precautionary actions were taken.

“Safety at work at construction sites needs to be enhanced to lessen the number of these incidents from occurring. Meeting deadlines for project completion should never be at the expense of safety,” said Lau.

Sarawak Energy has actively issued warning letters and stop work orders to contractors who breach safety standards when working near live electric cables as a proactive measure to avoid such incidents.

The letters are copied to the Electrical Inspection Unit (EIU) under the Ministry of Public Utility, Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) and the project owner to ensure that contractors take the matter seriously.

Contractors need 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 to ensure the safety and health of all persons involved. Such works require close monitoring and supervision by qualified personnel.

The basic electrical safety guideline when working close to electrical installations is to keep at least 15 feet or five meters away from power lines.

The general rule on underground cables is for contractors to check cable routes with Sarawak Energy to ensure their work site is safe.

“Please do not assume the location or depth of the underground cable. Taking basic precautionary measures will ensure the safety of the contractors and their workers. We have seen fatalities occur when contractor staff are exposed to the danger of working too near to the lines and this is unacceptable. These unnecessary incidents can have tragic consequences,” said Lau.

“All contractors must comply with the safety requirements. Contractors with Sarawak Energy are at risk of having their contracts terminated if they do not comply with our safety standards – we are serious about safety and want everybody to go home safely,” Lau emphasised.

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 infrastructure requiring Sarawak Energy’s technical advice.

Excavation work at the Roban Junction caused the 8-hour long power outage. Pictured above is the damaged 33kV underground cable.

Among some of the damaged poles caused by highway works at Enteban, Lubok Antu Junction & Pentik.

The pulling force of the excavated damaged the switchgear and caused coolant leakage at the Roban Bazaar substation.

An overhead line pole was struck by a contractor’s lorry at the Pan Borneo Highway project site near Badul, Bau on 9 May 2019

Broken 11kV HT pole due to excavation work at Jalan Bau-Lundu

Damaged 11kV underground cable between Serian By Pass 1 Sub and Taman Pasir 2 Sub, Serian.

Damaged underground cable due to excavation work at Stuga, Engkilili

Damaged underground cable due to excavation works near SMK Senibong, Lundu