TEAM MEMBER STORIES – RICHARD CRAWFORD
When you’re working 1.2m from 22,000 volt power lines, you’ve “got to keep your wits about you”. Nine days a fortnight Richard Crawford does just that in his role as an Elevating Work Platform (EWP) operator based out of Darwin.
He’s part of a six-man crew responsible for keeping trees clear of power lines for Darwin Power and Water, where each day brings something different in the bush of the Northern Territory.
Richard has been with Active Tree Services for just on 2½ years after a mate in the industry gave the company “a good wrap”. He was no stranger to tree work at the time, working for another company as a crew leader doing residential tree climbing and pruning.
“The move to Active and into power lines was something different, and I don’t mind a change,” he says.
Originally from South Australia, Richard had moved to Darwin in 2009, noting it’s a place he’s unlikely to leave. His favourite part of the job is getting out into the bush, far from city life in the remote areas that machinery can’t access.
“You see pigs, buffalo and snakes. Meanwhile the crew is great to work with, we all get along.”
While the bulk of work is focussed on the Humpty Doo area, any day can see the team travelling to different sites. His preferred destination is the isolated and spectacular Dundee, 125km southwest of Darwin on a peninsula overlooking the Timor Sea.
“It’s right on the ocean and you can go fishing after work.”
As for the greatest challenge of his role, it’s the focus required in a situation where mistakes can be lethal.
“You’ve got to keep your mind on the job.”
That means discipline throughout the working week. The EWP gets as close as 700mm from power lines, while workers are required to keep a distance of at least 1.2m. Dead trees present the biggest issue when their brittle branches have the potential to fall without warning, and as Richard notes: “Sparks, power lines and outages are not good”.
Every 12 months the crew undertakes refresher courses in first aid and electrical training, and it’s a commitment to staff safety Richard appreciates.
Storm season also presents challenges of its own, particularly in a region like Darwin that’s prone to cyclones throughout summer. They haven’t had one in the years Richard’s worked for Active, but throughout the Christmas season a skeleton staff remains on call for emergencies.
In the dry season, Darwin plays host to the perfect lifestyle where a nine-day fortnight affords workers the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors both at work and after hours.
As for what’s next, Richard envisages a future with the company.
“Eventually I’d like to go up to supervisor and see where the job takes me.”
But for now he’s relishing a role that gets him out in the bush in the region he clearly loves. he says.