Water & Wastewater Treatment

WWT October 2018

Water & Wastewater Treatment Magazine

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Page 14 of 43

www.wwtonline.co.uk | WWT | XXXX 20XX | 15 The Works O ne of the biggest health and safety dangers that water sector workers can encounter when working below ground is making accidental contact with electrical cables or gas pipelines. Without the right preparations, these utility strikes – also known as service strikes or hits – can occur alarmingly regularly and can result in serious injury or even death. Tens of thousands are believed to occur in the UK every year, exposing workers to risks including electrocution and explosion. The issue is costly and disruptive as well as dangerous: huge sums can be spent rectifying the damage caused by ill-judged digging, while at www.wwtonline.co.uk | WWT | OCTOBER 2018 | 15 the very least, incidents of this type – including hits on unlooked-for water pipes – lead to delay and have a service impact on customers. In the absence of a unified, mandatory reporting structure, the numbers are impossible to verify, but there are estimated to be around 4 million excavations in the UK annually, resulting in approximately 60,000 strikes. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) received 6,746 reports of incidents involving pipelines and the escape of flammable substances liable to cause harm between 2012 and 2017. Over the same period, 318 reports were submitted of injuries, including fatalities, caused by underground electrical cable strikes. However, there is no legal obligation to report most strikes, and while companies will generally have in-house reporting structures, the way they are categorised can vary so significantly as to make the data impossible to collate. Furthermore, there is a suspicion that some may even be covering up strikes, to avoid the onerous investigation, delays and costs associated with them, and to avoid being blamed for their poor practice. So what can be done to bring this vital issue out into the open, and to drive the risks down to the lowest possible levels? Utility strikes are both costly and potentially fatal. With tens of thousands believed to occur in the UK every year, how does the industry change to ensure safe working practices? By Robin Hackett Striking it out Anglian Water staged and filmed this controlled explosion to simulate the risk of hitting a high-voltage line or gas main; the film is used as part of its VR training

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