The consequences of getting too close to electrical powerlines are usually severe and often fatal, whether those powerlines are overhead or underground.
When a machine, ladder, scaffold tube or even a jet of water touches an overhead power line the electricity will be conducted to earth through the item and anyone touching the item may receive an electric shock or suffer burn injuries. Contact can cause damage to machinery leading to fire or even an explosion.
Electricity can jump or arc small gaps and overhead wires do no t need to be touched for a fatal accident to occur.
Similar effects are likely when underground cables are damaged e.g. when digging or excavating. Even if an underground cable is not penetrated if the cable is severely crushed this can be enough to cause contact between the internal conductors or between the conductors and metallic sheathing. Where there are other nearby services e.g. gas pipes, damage to electric cables could result in an explosion and increased fire risk.
It is important that anyone working close to electrical powerlines is aware of the risks and what they need to do to avoid an accident. General safety advice can be found on the HSE and power company websites. But how do you communicate this information to workers who do not have English as their main language?
UK Power Networks, who own and maintain electricity cables and lines across London, the South East and East of England, have a number of safety leaflets and downloads available at: https://www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/safety/safety-advice-and-resources/safety-leaflets-resources-and-downloads
They have also recently announced that translations of several of these are now available in Bulgarian, Czech, Estonian, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian and Slovak. If you are interested in obtaining copies of these UK Power Networks advise “Any farmers, builders or other relevant trades wanting these materials can request them from us free of charge via our firstname.lastname@example.org email address.”