SAFE ISOLATION – THE STATE OF THE ELECTRICAL INDUSTRY
Professional electricians and installers are risking their lives everyday by not following basic safety procedures to check charge before starting work, according to updated research carried out by Super Rod*.
2,044 installers were surveyed about their safety habits and although the findings show some positives, as an industry, we have a long way to go with 13 fatalities, and over 220 serious injuries, many of which could have been avoided if safe isolation was in practice.
The latest survey indicates huge progress was made with 90% of contractors now carrying a lock out kit; the downside is that only that 28% said they rarely or never used it to isolate the electrical supply they are working on.
Instead of using a lock out kit, installers have many weird and wonderful ways to ensure their safety, from using signage (40%) and tape (20%) to verbally telling other trades what they are working on (50%) to avoid accidents. Worryingly, a few respondents said they took no precautions at all (2%). These methods clearly work most of the time, but what if something was to go wrong?
So why don’t installers use a lock out kit, a vital piece of equipment which could save their life? A third said they worked alone so didn’t need to use one (32%), 1 in 10 think they are only going to be a minute or two with power isolated. 6% didn’t use a lock out kit because their employer didn’t provide them with one, 1 in 20 (5%) said they were too much hassle and others felt they were too expensive (2%).
Similar to our previous survey, results indicate a clear difference in approach between Industrial / Commercial and the Domestic setting, with Industrial / Commercial contractors twice more likely to actually follow safe isolation procedures.
It would appear that over the last four years, awareness has increased around the subject of safe isolation, and with many colleges refreshing their own training resources around the subject. This is a positive step in the right direction, but the focus now should be to take action on the job site and put safe isolation into practice.
We have had great support from various industry bodies, like SECTT training in Scotland, NAPIT, The Electrical Safety Roundtable and many more. We are also seeing various influencers across digital media picking up the message.
But even with all of this, we are still seeing a reluctance in many to change their daily working practice. Which now leaves us with several key questions unanswered, namely:
- Why are so many contractors still not following Safe Isolation practices daily?
- What will it require for those who do not want to change?
Super Rod Managing Director Malcolm Duncan comments:
“So, whilst the numbers are not what we would have hoped for, there is progress, and we are on a journey. Many more people now have a better understanding and knowledge of safe isolation, and many more people have the right equipment, which is great news. Our plan is to work with various people across the industry, mainly at grass roots level in order to find answers to the What and Why, and then start to act upon, using any influence we may have to circulate the message of Safe Isolation. Our ambition is to create a culture where #workingsafer is the norm.”
* The survey was conducted by Super Rod in July-August 2022; 2,044 UK installers completed the survey about their attitudes towards Safe Isolation procedures.
Back in 2018, Super Rod worked with Michael’s sister Louise Taggart on a campaign to raise awareness of the need for safer working practices in the electrical industry after a survey of more than 800 members of the Electricians Community Forum on Facebook revealed shocking results about installers’ working practices.
Michael Adamson was a 26-year-old experienced electrician who tragically died in a preventable electrical incident in 2005. He cut a cable marked ‘NOT IN USE’, which was in fact wired into a distribution board and was not safely isolated. Louise now shares Michael’s Story and works tirelessly to ensure no other family has to endure what her family has been through. She was recognised in 2018 as the ‘Most Influential Person in Health & Safety in the UK’ by Safety and Health Practitioner.