Safe isolation is more important than ever

In his latest article for Installer, Mark Allison discusses safe isolation and the need for change across the trades.

Safe isolation is something that affects more than just electricians! Hear me out on this, but more than ever as our trades overlap this is becoming relevant in particular to roofers and plumbers.

The days of switched fused spurs powering boilers and roofs with just tiles are nearly over. We now have heat pumps which are generally powered via larger cables sizes and rotary isolators. Roofs covered in both DC and AC electrical systems housing solar panels which can all present danger.

Mixed into that electrical systems that are producing energy both within the installation via solar and battery storage along with the grid connection. Ensuring safe isolation to maintain and install equipment for heating, plumbing, roof work has become ever more important.

The data from RIDDOR around electrical accidents at work is humbling with hundreds of serious incidents resulting in hospitalisation and thirteen deaths within the last data issued. Most recent data from 2022-2023 shows this also sadly affected the plumbing sector.

Raising awareness

The electrical trade is coming together raising awareness and discussion around safe isolation and includes support from: IET, ECA, Electrical safety first, ESR, NAPIT, NICEIC, Sparksafe, EAL, Test instrument solutions, CEF, Super Rod, UKES rail, Professional Electrical, Apprentice 121, InstallerSHOW, Proteus/IMD and many others joining daily.

I helped bring together a collective of people who are focused on trying to have tangible impact in the workplace. Social media campaigns are wonderful, but we want to reach into the real world and see if we can tackle some of those bad habits and attitudes still in place.

The aim is to enable change and some honest discussions about what really goes on out in industry. Working to make changes at a regulatory level and mindsets/attitudes out on site.

InstallerSHOW has very kindly offered free space to us at the event June 25th-27th and we will have representatives in that space which I think is vital. Getting awareness into both the electrical trade and wider parts of the construction industry is a key goal. With the blended attendees from many parts of construction it is a fabulous opportunity for us to reach more people.

This month we had a first run out at the Elex show in Bolton which I volunteered to host and collect feedback from those attending. It was a fantastic experience at a personal level, and we had over two hundred responses on the questionnaire we were handing out on the stand. Sadly, the results of that confirmed my views that we have a problem with this. Over 90% of responses confirming they have not always safely isolated and the same for industry having a problem again over 90%! More worryingly over 70% saying they have had a near miss in the workplace. We hope to collect more data at other trade events throughout 2024 and beyond.

Safety guides

The HSE have some excellent data and guides on the website you can find here https://www.hse.gov.uk/electricity/information/index.htm and a very recent example of a serious electrical accident here https://press.hse.gov.uk/2024/03/14/company-fined-as-worker-suffers-serious-burns/

We have some fantastic guides out in industry at the moment from places such as Electric Safety First Best practice guide 2 https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/media/1201/best-practice-guide-2-issue-3.pdf and the ESR 12 steps https://www.electricalsafetyroundtable.co.uk/downloads/ID3098_%20ESR_Lock%20off%20infographic_050320.pdf . With the NICEC pocket guides and NAPIT code breakers also having some excellent handy reminders. In the social media space the GSH and Efixx CPD modules https://www.efixx.co.uk/Know%20How/introduction-to-safe-isolation-cpd are fantastic so we have very good guidance and examples to follow.

In good news, younger members of industry coming to the stand reported excellent training at college and a good awareness of the importance of safe isolation but that equipment and instruction was lacking from employers. This is especially disappointing, and it does look to me that people around my age and upwards tend to have the worst habits/views on this subject.

My closing comments would be to value your own safety and importance to those who love and need you. In the worst circumstances it is those people who will have to deal with the lifelong consequences. It takes no time at all to ensure you are safe to work without the presence of electricity.

The goal is to move those annual deaths to zero across all areas of construction and I hope very much to see that happen.

For anyone who has yet to see Michael’s story it is essential viewing to see the consequences of when things go wrong. For both the individual directly involved and wider family. https://michaels-story.net/

It would be great to meet as many as possible during InstallerSHOW on the 25th to 27th June at the NEC in Birmingham. Get yourself registered and come say hello. It is bigger than ever and well worth a visit in your 2024 calendar.

If anyone would like to suggest topics for future articles, please reach out on social media or via the apprentice 121 website.

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@Mark The Sparky Allison on YouTube