In addition to genuine power shortages, an accident people are calling ‘human error’ has contributed to Eskom’s load-shedding woes.

An Eskom report indicates that the main reason for the failure of one of the two units at the Koeberg nuclear power station on Sunday, was due to the incorrect positioning of scaffolding in preparation for routine maintenance at the plant.

The scaffolding accidentally touched a neural point, causing two breakers, a turbine and reactor, to trip. The report states that the maintenance work started on the weekend of January 24 and was expected to continue the following weekend, until the accident occurred.

It states that a preliminary investigation found it could have been avoided through a “pre-job brief, which entails identifying potential risks and errors,” and by “foreseeing and minimising” the consequences. The lessons learnt were “to be aware of your surroundings at all times.”

On the day, Eskom warned that the power system may be vulnerable after unit 1 of the Koeberg power station unexpectedly went out of service.

The statement said the unit was scheduled to go on a planned refuelling, inspection and maintenance outage on February 9.

“All employees involved in erecting the scaffold were pre-briefed about safety aspects around the facility as per existing safety protocols. This is the first time an incident of this nature has occurred at Koeberg, and procedures have been reviewed to include lessons learnt from this incident.”

“The scaffold was erected in preparation for the maintenance work that is planned in and around the facility. Unit 1 is scheduled for a planned shutdown next week. This incident is particularly regrettable as Koeberg power station’s performance has been excellent over the last few years, with the unit having been one week away from completing an uninterrupted run since the last outage in 2013.”