Working Safely Near Overhead Power Cables – Part Two

Working Safely Near Overhead Power Cables – Part Two

21st June 2018

Following the publication of a recent survey carried out by JIB (the Joint Industry Board which sets standards for employment, welfare and training in the electrical contracting sector), last week we took a look at working safely near overhead power lines.  We published some useful information on planning, preparation and eliminating risks and promised that this week we would follow up with Part Two – more of the information you need to ensure safe working practices near overhead power cables.

As we advised last week, eliminating the danger is the safest option – either by avoidance or by diversion.  However, it’s not always possible to get powerlines switched off or diverted away from the work area, so managing the risks by controlling access to, and work underneath overhead power cables will be necessary in such cases.

Controlling Access

In cases where there is no scheduled work or requirement for access under the lines, barriers should be used at the correct clearance distance from the line to prevent approach.  The safe clearance distance can be obtained from the Distribution Network Operator (DNO) whilst information on this is also available from the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) guidance documents “Avoidance of Danger for Overhead Electrical Power Lines” and “Electricity at Work: Forestry and Arboriculture), along with guidance on how barriers should be constructed.  The danger area should be made as small as possible by restricting the width of the passageway to the minimum requires for the safe crossing of plant and the passageway should cross the route of the overhead cables at right angles where possible.

Controlling the Work

If work beneath liver overhead power cables cannot be avoided, barriers and warning notices should be put in place.  The following precautions should also be taken in order to manage risks:

  • Clearance – the safe clearance necessary beneath the overhead cables should be obtained from the Distribution Network Operator (DNO).
  • Exclusion – vehicles, machinery, plant, equipment or materials that could reach beyond the safe clearance distances should not be taken near the cables.
  • Modifications – vehicles such as cranes, excavators and tele-handlers should be modified with the addition of suitable physical restraints that prevent them from reaching beyond the safe clearance distances.   Measures should be in place to ensure the restraints are effective and cannot be altered.
  • Maintenance – operators of tall machinery should be instructed not to carry out any work on top of the machine near overhead power cables.
  • Supervision – access for plant and materials and the operation of plant should be under direct supervision of a suitable, qualified person appointed to ensure that all safety precautions are adhered to.

The local Distribution Network Operator will usually supply stickers describing emergency procedures and featuring emergency contact numbers.  These stickers should be stuck in the cabs of vehicles that are likely to be used near overhead power cables.