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Published Wed, Jun 8th 2016

Distribution network operators face specific health and safety challenges

Health and safety challenges facing network operators.

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The specific health and safety challenges facing network operators are explored following the news that financial penalties for failings are set to rise.

Last year, electricity distribution company UK Power Networks (UKPN) recently reported that they had only five time loss incidents. If such standards are matched across the industry, where employees face a vast range of dangers, then we can be comforted that health and safety standards are where they should be in the network industry.

Every employee faces health and safety risks at work, such as stress – the theme of last month’s world day for health and safety at work.  But for employees in this sector, failure to uphold standards can be fatal.  For this reason, UKPN’s director of safety, strategy and support services, Suleman Alli warns that complacency can never be allowed to creep in to business-as-usual for networks.

Although rare, serious accidents and fatalities do happen. Already this year, three major fines, of between £1-2 million, have been handed out by the Health & Safety Executive to both an electricity and gas distribution company.

While all companies want to avoid tragic incidents and health and safety should always be the number one priority, such fines undoubtedly sharpen companies’ focus on health and safety – and punishment for lapses is about to become even more stringent for those that fail to protect staff and the general public.

New sentencing guidelines introduced in February mean that for the first time courts in England and Wales have been given comprehensive guidelines on the size of fines handed out for health and safety breaches.

Equipment supplier Slingsby warns that as a result, fines are likely to soar above their current levels, reaching potentially ten times the level of those handed out to network companies so far this year. Add to this financial threat with the dire consequences that poor health and safety standards can have on morale and organisational reputation, and the motivation for significant and strategic investment in continuing health and safety excellence becomes clear.

Maintaining vigorous health and safety standards is not a new concept to network operators. The RIIO price control model already requires them to meet specific outputs for health and safety, to ensure infrastructure does not pose a danger to the general public and the environment.

For electricity distribution operators this means constant efforts to inform the public about the risks electricity and gas infrastructure poses to them. UKPN alone has over 180,000km of underground cables and overhead lines, all of which potentially pose a danger to individuals despite the inherent benefit they represent for society.

UKPN has committed to reach two million people with its safety messages during the current price control period, targeting schools and businesses most likely to come into contact with its power lines.

Locating all utility assets before works commence can help ensure that you;
  • Avoid the harm to you and your teams caused by striking utility assets
  • Avoid the disruption to the general public and asset owners from disrupting supplies
  • Avoid significant financial implications
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Richard Broome, Managing Director of LSBUD, comments:

“We see millions of diligent searches being made through our service helping prevent utility damage and cable strikes every year.  Whilst through our commitment and work with the Utility Strike Avoidance Group ( we recognise that there is no silver bullet for eliminating these issues, we must learn from internationally recognised best practices to help us reduce them.”

By using a service like LinesearchbeforeUdig (LSBUD), all involved can work more safely and efficiently, saving disruption and delays to works and asset networks.  It helps ensure compliance with necessary legislative requirements and best practice for safe working.

LinesearchbeforeUdig (LSBUD) is a free to use online search service that any individual (“User”) can use to check their works against over 50 asset owners’ (“Members”) utility assets. These assets include hundreds of thousands of kilometres of underground and overhead pipes and cables in the electricity, gas, high pressure fuel, water and fibre optic networks. The service processes over 1.6 million enquiries per annum- that’s more than one every 20 seconds.
LSBUD Members respond in a variety of different ways; many will respond automatically while others may request further information.

For more information about LinesearchbeforeUdig (LSBUD) call us on +44 845 437 7365 or visit the website and complete our contact form.

Please note that not all asset owners are LSBUD Members and whilst the LSBUD service will help you identify them by supplying contact details etc. it is your responsibility to identify and contact all asset owners within your search area.

LinesearchbeforeUdig (LSBUD),

Contact information

LinesearchbeforeUdig (LSBUD) is a free to use online search service that any individual (“User”) can use to check their works against over 50 asset owners’ (“Members”) utility assets.

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