As lockdown eases and construction work begins again, Britain’s energy network companies, including Northern Powergrid, are urging construction workers returning to work to stay safe by making sure that they are aware of any potential underground cables or gas pipes before they carry out any work that involves breaking ground.
This also includes working out how they are going to locate utility equipment to avoid the risk of damaging it and risking their safety.
During the coronavirus pandemic, construction work and projects across the UK have experienced a period of downtime, in particular, that work which involves excavation.
As a result, energy network companies have experienced a welcome reduction in third-party damages to underground cables, gas pipelines and other equipment. In reality, this also means a reduction in the risk of harm to those involved in the damage.
As lockdown restrictions begin to ease across the UK and work levels increase, it’s essential that excavation teams remember the basic safety precautions necessary to ensure they stay safe.
Energy Networks Association, which Northern Powergrid is a member of, has advice for construction workers to help them work safely.
- Be aware of the location of underground utility equipment before digging or excavating.
- Request location details and plans from utility companies well in advance of work starting. Remember that these are a guide only – construction companies are responsible for confirming the exact location of all equipment and avoiding damage. Northern Powergrid offers a SafeDig service to support the construction sector and customers who need to carrying out work.
- Use a cable avoidance tool to identify the presence of buried cables before you start to dig. Rescan the area as your work progresses. Hand Dig — use safe digging techniques to dig trial holes to establish the line and depth of underground utility equipment.
- Always assume underground cables are ‘live’. If they appear to be damaged do not approach them and contact the Network Operator using 105 for GB (or 03457 643 643 in Northern Ireland). Take care when lowering the ground levels as there may be underground cables in the area.
- If you damage an underground cable, vacate the excavation immediately, phone your electricity network operator’s emergency number and keep everybody clear.
David Smith, Energy Networks Association’s chief executive, said: “The energy network includes thousands of miles of underground gas pipes and power cables which is why it’s so important for construction workers returning to work to stay safe and to know what utilities are underground before they break ground. This is a very serious safety message and I urge everyone who may be carrying out work that requires excavation to plan their work safely and help us to keep Britain’s energy flowing.”
Geoff Earl, Northern Powergrid’s director of safety, health and environment, said: “As our region moves forward during the lockdown easement and starts the important steps towards economic recovery with increased construction, we want to support this by ensuring construction workers in the communities we serve across the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire work safely.
"We would encourage companies to use our SafeDig service and contact us for advice if they are carrying out any key works near our assets. If anyone inadvertently damages our network and causes an electrical emergency they must call us immediately on 105 – where our teams remain ready 24/7 to take action to ensure our network and supplies remain safe and we continue to power our customers’ live through these challenging times.”