Think before you dig is one of the core messages from the UK Power Networks Be Bright, Stay Safe campaign. Professional Builder’s Lee Jones looks at how the organisation can help you steer clear of contact with cables and electrical infrastructure.
When it comes to a close encounter with the power network there are rarely second chances. The least that could be expected from significant contact with electricity is serious burns, and at worst a fatality. Either outcome will have a devastating effect on a builder’s family, with life-changing injuries seriously impacting on their ability to earn. Moreover, if an employer is deemed to have failed to implement the appropriate mitigation measures amongst their workforce, it is likely they will be deemed legally responsible for any harm to their employees.
The UK Power Networks, Be Bright, Stay Safe Campaign is dedicated to raising the awareness of the dangers of excavation around the underground network, and avoiding contact with overhead cables. It seeks to engage with everyone from contractors, to utilities providers to get that message across, and is at pains to emphasise the consequences of cable strikes. Thanks to the invaluable information it provides, however, the organisation can help the building industry avoid those tragic consequences, and represents an invaluable resource for identifying the location of electrical services.
So just what procedures should you be putting in place to make sure you don’t become a casualty? Tradespeople can be at risk not just when digging but when using lifting equipment, ladders, pneumatic drills or hand and power tools. In every instance the same rules apply – each job should be planned, with extra time allowed to locate and mark out cables.
Before starting work you can request cable plans from either UK Power Networks or Line Search Before You Dig. Every job is money but digging without an awareness of what lies beneath can itself be very costly. Locate, identify, and clearly mark where those cables are and make sure everyone working on site is aware and understands. Underground utilities may not run in straight lines and can be routed around obstacles – or change depth – so it’s also important to confirm the location of cables by using a Cable Avoidance Tool (CAT). Buried services should be clearly marked before excavating – with trial holes dug if necessary – and, when you’re ready to make the earth move, do not use mechanical excavators or power tools within 0.5m of the suspected route.
Domestic and Commerical Properties
The same principles apply when working in a domestic or commercial property and the advice is just as clear: Before drilling into walls, roof areas or floors use a cable detector, and know where the service cables enter the building. Communication is key so make sure you are aware of the location of wiring and that the trades that follow you on the job are just as well informed.
Overhead Power Cables
When working in the vicinity of overhead power cables look up and look out. Work away from overhead power lines when handling long items, such as scaffold poles, or when using lifting and digging equipment and make sure that delivery drivers are aware of their location. Similarly, starting demolition work before the electricity supply is disconnected could lead to injury or death.
ABOUT UK POWER NETWORKS
UK Power Networks is the country’s biggest electricity distributor, making sure the lights stay on for more than eight million homes and businesses across London, the South East and the East of England. As a network operator it maintains and owns local power lines and substations and invests more than £600 million in its electricity networks every year.
For further information on the UK Power Networks Be Bright, Stay Safe Campaign, and for details on cable plans, visit https://www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/internet/en/safety/BeBrightStaySafeCampaign.html
Line Search Before You Dig can also provide these plans and you can find more details at www.linesearchbeforeudig.co.uk
To access HSE advice on avoiding danger from overhead power lines visit www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/gs6.htm
For HSE guidance on avoiding danger from underground services visit www.hse.gov.uk/pUbns/priced/hsg47.pdf
The Electricity Networks Association has recently launched a new excavation safety film. To watch the film visit www.vimeo.com/472990801