12-09-2013

Underground cables can cause significant injury if they are damaged during a construction project. This could happen because they are accidentally drilled into or pierced, while they could be crushed if strong enough pressure is applied.

The correct planning is always essential on a building site and this will include drawing up details of where underground cables are located to ensure they are avoided when work begins. These plans must then be communicated to employees so they are aware of the issue.

It is the responsibility of the project client and their co-ordinator to provide information to contractors about any underground cables. The majority of these will belong to regional electricity suppliers, while others may be owned by organisations such as the highways authority or Network Rail.

Symbols on electricity cable plans can vary, so it is important to seek advice from the body that manages them to ensure they are fully understood. Similarly, plans for both high and low-voltage cables need to be checked, as they can sometimes be detailed on different documents.

Risk assessments should be used to plan how construction work is going to be carried out and this involves getting plans and information about any underground electricity cables on site. However, in some cases these will not be available and in these instances the project should be carried out with caution, under the assumption there are buried cables at the site.

Once the relevant documents have been checked, contractors can then use equipment hire to locate underground cables and adequately mark them so they are clearly identified ready for the project to begin.

It is not just enough to go through this process and the beginning of the work. Builders must continually check for underground cables to manage risks and ensure no one is harmed by electricity.

When the cables have been located, the work can get underway as long as safe digging practices are adhered to. By using tool hire, contractors can acquire small hand tools to dig trial holes to confirm the position of cables before digging in a horizontal direction. The HSE recommends using insulated tools for this kind of work to minimise risks even further.

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