Chartered Institute of Building Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Building


Electrical accidents double after construction returns from lockdown

30 July 2020

Incidents involving the UK’s electrical network have more than doubled across building and construction between April and May, as the sector returned to work after the coronavirus lockdown.

Electricity distributor UK Power Networks (UKPN), which distributes electricity across London, the South East and East of England, warned construction firms to stay safe around live services.

It stressed the importance of pre-planning and requesting cable plans in advance as well as avoiding working too closely to live services.

UKPN said it was particularly concerned about private builders doing construction work such as small house builds, excavation work or extensions.

Contact with electricity can lead to serious injury, severe burns or even death. Workers could be at risk when carrying out building, construction and excavation work using diggers, lifting equipment, ladders, pneumatic drills and hand tools.

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

  • Request further advice on disconnections and shrouding of overhead lines.
  • 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.
  • Show these plans to everyone on site before starting work. Confirm locations by using a CAT (cable avoidance) tool.
  • Look Up and Look Out for overhead lines and always use a cable detector before drilling into walls, roof areas or walls.
  • For additional safety advice contact UKPN.

Peter Vujanic, head of safety at UK Power Networks, said: “We pride ourselves on building, operating and maintaining electricity supply networks that are safe for all.

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

“We want those working in the construction industry to be aware of the potential risks. Hundreds of people in the UK are injured each year by coming into contact with power lines and electrical equipment. Many of these incidents could have been prevented with a better understanding of the dangers of electricity.

“UK Power Networks is committed to safety and actively encourages anyone undertaking work close to our network to contact us in advance for advice. Planning ahead will undoubtedly help significantly reduce any risk of death or serious injury.”