Working Safely Near Overhead Power Cables – Part One

Working Safely Near Overhead Power Cables – Part One

14th June 2018

A recent survey of accidents at work carried out by JIB (the Joint Industry Board which sets standards for employment, welfare and training in the electrical contracting industry) revealed that in 2017, the accident incident rate (AIR) for RIDDOR reportable accidents was less than 10% of what it was in 2001.  This is in part due to the continuing commitment from electrical contractors to reduce accidents in the workplace by following the ZAP safety initiative which was launched 17 years ago.  This clearly demonstrates the power of industry related safety initiatives to reduce accidents and injuries in the workplace and is great news for the electrical industry and the construction industry in general.

Here at Safety Fabrications, we totally support industry initiatives of this type, particularly in high risk industries like construction and electrical contracting.  Electrical safety is of prime concern on construction projects and falls from height sometimes occur when metal access equipment comes into contact with overhead power cables.  Accidental contact with overhead power lines kill people and cause serious injuries every year.  Workers may also risk harm when a person or object comes too close to a line and a flashover occurs.  Work which involves high vehicles or long equipment (like ladders and cranes) is particularly high risk.  Work near overhead electrical cables needs to be planned meticulously in order to control and minimise risks.

Safe precautions depend upon the nature of the work being carried out, but are necessary no matter how short the duration of the work is.   Safety can be achieved by:

  • Planning and preparing
  • Eliminating the danger
  • Controlling access
  • Controlling the work


The first step is to ascertain whether there are any overhead power lines within or next to the work area or across any of the access routes.  Information on this will be available from the local electricity supplier or Distribution Network Operator (DNO).  If any overhead powerlines are found, it should be assumed that they are live, unless proven otherwise by their owners.

If there are overhead powerlines across the work area, neat site boundaries or over access roads leading to the work area, consult the owners of the lines to discuss the proposed plan of work.  Before work commences, sufficient time should be allowed for lines to be diverted or made dead, or other precautions should be taken, as outlined below:


The danger can be eliminated in the following ways:

  • Avoidance – find out if the work can be carried out elsewhere, away from the overhead power cables.  Make sure materials are not placed near overhead power lines and that any temporary structures (such as polytunnels) are erected outside safe clearance distances.
  • Diversion – arrange for the overhead power lines to be diverted away from the work area or for the lines to be rendered “dead” for the duration of the work.


In some cases, a combination of the above measures may be possible, particularly when overhead power cables pass over a permanent work area.  If the danger cannot be eliminated, the risk should be managed by controlling access to, and work underneath, overhead power lines.

Next week, we’ll have Part Two of this series, if you want to make sure you don’t miss it, why not follow us on Facebook or Twitter and get the link as the information goes live?