Farmers and lorry drivers on track for new safety pledge

New safety pledge

The country’s biggest electricity distributor has launched a new initiative designed to save lives, by talking to people most at risk of coming into contact with overhead lines.

UK Power Networks say the four groups with the highest number of safety incidents around overhead power lines during the past five years, have been road hauliers, farmers, tree surgeons and builders.

Figures for 2020 show that 44% of overhead line incidents were through road hauliers, 18% were farmers, 16% tree surgeons and small or self-employed builders made up 12% of the tally.

The new ‘Think, Plan, Locate’ initiative will see UK Power Networks join forces with others, including both the national Road Haulage Association and the National Farmers’ Union.

With lockdown easing across England, safe working procedures to reduce the risk of accidents near overhead power lines are essential. These include maneuvering, loading or unloading vehicles which risk coming into contact with electrical equipment.

Touching high voltage cables can be fatal. Accidental contact with live overhead power lines kills people and causes many serious injuries every year. People are also harmed when a person or object gets too close to a line and a flashover occurs.

Ros Forbes, a safety advisor at UK Power Networks which owns and runs overhead electricity networks across the East and South East of England, comments: “Safety is our number one priority and we saw a rise in incidents when lockdown eased last summer, so it’s timely to remind people again of the dangers.

“Our research has shown us the trades and professions most in danger and we sense that a focus on being COVID-secure has led to less of an emphasis on electrical safety in some areas.

“This new ‘Think, Plan, Locate’ initiative builds on the work of our ‘Be Bright Stay Safe’ pledge and is there to remind people to concentrate on their safety. We want to prompt collaborative working and positive conversations about safety which, ultimately, will help save lives.

“Taking time to plan, informing workers and contractors where the power lines are, being prepared and focusing on the on the way you work, can help keep people safe.”

Pete Short, head of business development for the Road Haulage Association says: “You can never be too careful when it comes to working near power lines, as one momentary lapse or wrong move can be fatal.

“We urge firms to make sure their drivers and other staff are aware of the risks of working in and around electricity networks so they can do everything they can to keep themselves and others safe every time.”

Tom Price, farm safety and transport advisor for the National Farmers’ Union says: “Almost all contact incidents can be avoided altogether – the key is planning. Find out where power lines are and make sure everyone knows – workers and contractors.

“You should know the height and reach of machines and the height of lines. If you suspect lines are low contact UK Power Networks and ask them to check – the service is free.

“Our advice is don’t rely on GPS and other tech to avoid lines – you must always be alert when driving any machine near a line.”

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