How to stay safe around mains electricity on site

How to stay safe around mains electricity on site

When it comes to altering or moving UK Power Networks’ infrastructure the message is very clear – leave it to the electricity distributor’s team of specialist engineers or risk serious consequences! PB’s Lee Jones reports.

Most of us are taught from a very early age not to mess with mains electricity. Some tradespeople, however, seem intent on ignoring the potentially life-saving advice and the results are truly shocking. “We’re getting more and more infringements every year,” reveals Jason Webb, UK Power Networks connection services manager for the London area, “where our engineers have been confronted with the potentially lethal results of interference to our electrical infrastructure.”

Service heads left in wheelie bins or nailed to the ceiling are just some of the dangerous scenarios that network operator engineers have come across

Examples include a cable protruding from the ground where a structure has been demolished, and a binbag taped around it. Live service heads have also been found in wheelie bins or nailed to the ceiling with wires left hanging. In every instance, tradespeople, the general public and UK Power Networks’ engineers who are called in to put it right, will have been exposed to the risk of serious burns
or even a fatality.

Jason explains the scale of the problem: “Our surveyors are seeing examples of equipment moved so that it can be worked around, or simply to avoid paying for it to be disconnected and relocated. Ultimately, however, the contractor is still liable. With no way of ascertaining what damage has been done to equipment when it was tampered with, the supply will have to be cut off at the footpath and a new service run in. The builder responsible will then be footing the bill. Not only that, tampering with the electricity network, or installing an illegal connection, also means they are subject to prosecution.”

Employers have a duty of care to their employees and the implications of being found responsible for their injury can be financially ruinous. Should it be a member of the public or a builders’ client that comes to harm it’s a similar story, all of which builds a compelling case for adhering to best practice at all times.

Another example of unsafe practices on site

So, what’s the correct procedure? UK Power Networks point out that it is in no way an onerous process. Indeed, keeping everyone safe is simply a matter of proper planning and ensuring that the safe handling of electricity assets is included in the project’s overall timeframe. Make sure you’ve talked to your homeowner client and they’re fully aware of what needs to be done. If the job you’re working on requires that electricity assets owned by UK Power Networks need moving, if a new connection is required, or supply interrupted then engineers will need to undertake a free site survey on application.

Jason has nearly three decades of experience at UK Power Networks and he says interference with the electrical infrastructure is getting worse: “There is definitely a lack of understanding amongst tradespeople about what point they are required to get us in for a survey, and they do not understand the dangers involved in interfering with the network. As a result, they jeopardise their own safety and those around them.

Another dangerous example found on site


We want to make it clear to the construction industry that doing the right thing isn’t a difficult process, especially if it is factored into the job and the build schedule. In the end it all comes down to having the right plan in place and making sure that the electrical assets are a priority. The alternative is to run the dangerous risk of someone not going home to their family.”

Ingrained behaviours can be difficult to overcome. If interfering with the network has worked once there’s a perception that it’s okay to do again. But, when it comes to a close encounter with the electricity network, there are no second chances, and the consequences can be catastrophic. UK Power Networks, and other organisations, have made available a host of invaluable resources to guide builders through the process to ensure they remain safe. Here are the details:

For cable plans and the safe identification of utility assets visit LSBUD (Line Search Before You Dig) Home – LinesearchbeforeUdig (

For new connections/moving equipment/disconnections/EVs, solar & heat pumps, and much more visit the UK Power Networks website at  and go to Our Services.

Support and guidance on replacing meter boxes/boards/earthing and fuses can be found at  under Safety Equipment.

If you’re involved in low carbon technology installations go to: Smart Connect – Installer portal | UK Power Networks.  

Health & Safety Executive advice on avoiding danger from underground services can be found at:

UK Power Networks also provides a host of other safety pages and resources:

Related posts