The dangers of working near overhead power lines, by Ewan McMillan, Health and Safety Director at SP Energy Networks

Posted on: Friday, 28 August 2015 by Jackie Langridge

At SP Energy Networks (SPEN), we manage more than 44,000km of overhead power lines and over 30,000 substations across central and southern Scotland, Cheshire, Merseyside and North Wales. That electricity powers over 3.5 million homes and businesses so our engineers - who are on the ground mending and fixing 24 hours a day, 365 days a year - play a vital role in keeping the lights on across our network.

Beyond managing the network, the SPEN team also regularly speaks to a wide variety of people and groups about the dangers of electricity. Safety is something we take very seriously, and it is important that people are aware of the risks of living and working close to overhead power lines.

This message is particularly relevant for those working in the logistics industry who manage and manoeuvre wide loads and tall vehicles, often in the vicinity of power lines and substations. Overhead power lines can carry electricity at up to 400 kilovolts (kV) and direct contact with live electrical equipment, even at domestic voltage, can be fatal.

Safety is at the forefront of everything we do. One of the greatest hazards for those in the logistics industry comes from operating tippers and vehicles with adjustable heights: in the past year we have seen two fatal incidents involving tippers in our operational areas. To stay safe you need to be aware of the risks, and know what to do in emergency,

It is critical to always be aware of your environment and any hazards. Before you start any new job, a risk assessment is key. You should be familiar with safety procedures that your company has in place - they’re there to make sure you go home safely. Working safely near power lines should be part of your risk assessment and simply stopping, thinking about what you’re doing and looking for power lines could save your life. Always look out for power lines when driving on site and before raising tippers or operating any part of a vehicle that could touch or come into contact with a power line.
Overhead power lines are generally identifiable by the yellow ‘danger of death’ sign, but if you’re unsure then it’s wise to treat every wire as though it is live.

How to react to an emergency

In the event that a vehicle does come into contact with an overhead power line, there are some simple steps which could save your life and others.

• Stay inside your vehicle unless there is a real threat of fire
• From inside your vehicle, telephone the Emergency Services or contact SP Energy Networks on 0800 092 9290 (landline) or 0330 101 0222 (mobile) in Central & Southern Scotland, and 0800 001 5400 (landline) or 0330 1010 400 (mobile) in Cheshire, Merseyside and North Wales
• If you have to get out, jump clear rather than stepping out of your vehicle, then run at least 10 metres away
• Once at a safe distance, keep others away from the vehicle and surrounding area – someone else touching your vehicle could result in them receiving fatal injuries

All statistics referenced from the Health and Safety Executive - Avoiding danger from overhead power lines - Guidance Note GS6 (Fourth edition).

Leave a comment

Comments (0)

What do you think?

Sign in or register to comment on this page.