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Builders urged to stay safe around live cables



Builders are being urged to prioritise electrical safety after the trade was involved in the highest number of cable damage incidents during the past year.


UK Power Networks which distributes electricity to 8.4 million homes and businesses across London, the South East and East of England, is issuing the warning after finding more than a fifth of all accidents with its networks involved builders.


In 2021 builders were involved in 23% of incidents where members of the public came into contact with electricity cables, more than any other trade.


The company has stressed the importance of pre-planning, by requesting cable plans in advance and avoiding working too closely to live services. One area of concern is private builders carrying out work such as small house builds or extension, laying driveways and excavation work.


Workers could be at risk when carrying out building, construction and excavation work using diggers, lifting equipment, ladders, pneumatic drills and hand tools.


Ros Forbes, a safety advisor at UK Power Networks, said: “Contact with electricity can result in serious burns, impact your ability to work or even result in a fatality. Every year people are seriously injured after contact with electricity. Simple safety steps can save lives.


“Working as a builder near our networks, whether they be underground cables, overhead lines or electricity substations can place employers and employees at risk of serious injury if the risks are not properly considered.


“You can be at risk when using diggers, spades, hammer drills, lifting equipment, ladders and power tools so everybody needs to take the time to plan ahead. It is never worth risking your life to try and save a bit of time.


“UK Power Networks is committed to safety and actively encourages anyone undertaking work close to our network to contact us in advance for advice. We regularly talk to professional and industry groups to remind them about safe working.”


Brian Berry, Chief Executive at the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said: “Building sites are dangerous environments for many reasons, especially if electrical cables are involved. Health and safety procedures are therefore paramount to the smooth running and safety of a project.


“Builders need to ensure that they are up to date with the latest safety guidelines surrounding live cables and have this drilled into the teams working on site.”


Cable plans can be obtained before starting any work via the UK Power Networks website or www.linesearchbeforeyoudig.co.uk. Any emergency incident or damaged cable can be reported by dialling 105.


Key advice from the power company’s safety team is to plan ahead:

  • Request advice on disconnecting power supplies, shrouding overhead lines and other issues

  • Always treat all cables as live. Make sure you allow time before each job to obtain cable plans and be mindful service cables could be overhead as well as underground.

  • Underground cables should be clearly marked before excavating – with trial holes dug if necessary – consult HSG47 ‘Avoiding Danger from Underground services’.

  • Show these plans to everyone on site before starting work. Confirm locations by using a CAT (cable avoidance) tool. Locate, identify and clearly mark where cables are.

  • Look Up and Look Out for overhead lines and always use a cable detector before drilling into walls, roof areas or walls. Check where a service cable enters a building.

  • Inform other trades working with you of the location of cables. ALWAYS do your own checks before you start to drill or dig.

  • Work away from overhead power lines when handling long items, such as scaffold poles, or when using lifting and digging equipment. Tell all those delivering to site the location of overhead power lines.

  • Always request that the power supply be disconnected before starting any demolition work. Failure to do so could lead to injuries for yourself, colleagues or members of the public.

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