High-voltage contracting is probably the safest place to be
Health and safety plays a significant role in every workplace and at Smith Brothers it’s no different. But, surprising as it may seem, high-voltage project work can often be one of the safest areas for electrical engineers to work in. Our commercial director David Ogden spoke to Tomorrow’s Health and Safety magazine to explain why…
As with most areas of the construction industry, health and safety is at the very top of internal priorities within the electrical engineering arena. The mitigation of risk is heavily audited and there are stringent rules and regulations in place to protect engineers, with a large percentage of project time spent on this alone.
Although perhaps best-known for their work on high-voltage engineering projects, Smith Brothers’ multi-faceted portfolio also covers low voltage distribution systems and complex turnkey projects – meaning they are involved in the construction-side of the project too. As a result, risk-management is not as simple as ‘black and white’.
Health and safety planning begins well before work commences on site and one of the core elements of ensuring projects are carried out safely is through the completion of risk assessments and method statements (RAMS).
Regular RAMS ensure all necessary steps are taken – at each stage, and in every aspect of the project – to protect those on the ground. By logically looking at how work is going to be carried out, each job can be properly planned and resourced.
Once on site, people who regularly work in construction will have noticed how heavily protected the electrical works are. The areas in which equipment is housed and upgrades or installations are being conducted are always securely locked, to ensure only trained personnel are granted access. Those admitted are thoroughly briefed and must have read and signed the associated RAMS documentation prior to entering.
Workers in the electrical sector need the right credentials too, and there are various industry-recognised certifications a company can hold. For instance, the Electrical Contractor Association (ECA) provides assessment and certification services for those working across all building services, whilst Lloyd’s Register operates a National Electricity Registration Scheme (NERS) on behalf of UK Distribution Network Operators (DNOs). International standards - ISO:9001, ISO:14001 and OHSAS:18001 control environmental, quality and health and safety issues.
All employees/contractors are given a NERS passport which they must always carry on site, and every member of staff involved in the project should carry a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) and/or Electrotechnical Certification Scheme (ECS) card. Smith Brothers hosts a weekly ‘toolbox talk’ session with workers to run through safety requirements in accordance with our RAMS. A typical meeting usually covers what is expected from them, often including topics such as personal protection equipment (PPE) / abrasive wheels.
Regular equipment inspections and maintenance, thorough training of staff and the safety precautions taken before and during an assignment all help to minimise hazards. Therefore, the sheer number of regulations and processes in place within the electrical engineering industry, probably makes it one of the safest areas of construction.