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Builders urged “be busy but stay safe”

As the construction industry continues to thrive, electricity distributor UK Power Networks is urging builders and scaffolders to be extra vigilant around overhead lines and underground cables.

From Press releases - 2 September 2014 12:00 AM

As the construction industry continues to thrive, electricity distributor UK Power Networks is urging builders and scaffolders to be extra vigilant around overhead lines and underground cables.

More than a dozen people are killed and in excess of 300 injured in Britain each year by coming into contact with power cables and other electrical equipment.

Machinery such as trailers, tipping equipment, ladders, scaffolding and loaders occasionally gets caught up or collides with overhead power lines.

Many of these deaths and injuries could have been prevented with a better understanding of the dangers of electricity. With this in mind, UK Power Networks, which owns, manages and maintains the electricity distribution network in London, the South East and East of England, is issuing safety tips for anyone involved in building work.

There are more than 170,000 kilometres of underground cables and overhead lines distributing power in the company’s area so it is vital for anyone working on building projects, large or small, to be aware of the potential dangers.

UK Power Networks’ cables and power lines can carry anything from 230 volts to 132,000 volts and even coming into contact with the lowest voltage cables – which are used to deliver electricity into homes and small buildings – can be fatal.

Peter Vujanic, head of health and safety, said: “In the rush to get things moving, some basic precautions may be forgotten – with potentially terrible consequences. I would urge people working on any kind of building project to be keenly aware of the precautions they need to take in order to work safely.

“If the network is damaged, repair work may also mean we have to temporarily isolate power supplies to many users, including hospitals, businesses and schools.”

Utility companies can ask anyone who damages their equipment to pay the repair bill.

Before work starts on any site, UK Power Networks advises:

• Have a good look around the site and note anything that might have an electricity supply to it. If any services are identified, consider whether they need to be disconnected or relocated. If this is the case, contact UK Power Networks well in advance of any work being undertaken.

• Particular consideration needs to be given to existing buildings which may still have live supplies inside. If the building is to be substantially altered or subject to any kind of demolition, it is not sufficient just to have the metering disconnected. You need to ask your electricity supplier to remove the service back to the boundary of the site.

• Obtain plans from all the utilities – gas, water, sewerage and telecommunications – and for electricity, contact UK Power Networks on 0800 0565866.

• Read and follow the guidance in the Health and Safety Executive’s publications HSG47 Avoiding danger from underground services [2001] and Guidance Note GS6, which refers to overhead power lines.

• Remember to “look out and look up". Electricity can jump across gaps so do not allow equipment to get too close.

• If there are any doubts whether an overhead line is a telephone or electricity service, always assume it is a live power line.

• If you do accidentally make contact with an underground cable or overhead power line, contact UK Power Networks immediately on these 24-hour helplines:

London: 0800 028 0247
East of England: 0800 783 8838
South East: 0800 783 8866

If you would like further information or someone from UK Power Networks to speak to you or your workforce, please contact the company’s public safety team on 08701 963163.

UK Power Networks has published detailed guidance for builders on how to stay safe near overhead power lines in the form of downloadable leaflets.

General advice on working near electricity cables and lines is at:
www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/internet/en/help-and-advice/documents/UKPN%20Power%20Lines%20Safety%20Leaflet

And for those working with scaffold there is a useful advice sheet at:
www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/internet/en/help-and-advice/documents/UKPN%20Scaffold%20Safety%20Leaflet