New research from Energy Networks Association (ENA) reveals lorry drivers do not know how to avoid fatal injuries when working near overhead power lines.
The research is released alongside a newly launched film highlighting the dangers of overhead power lines and a call for workers to familiarise themselves with safety advice and call 105 if an incident occurs.
On average, one person dies or is injured each month as a result of contact with overhead power lines. Data from the Health & Safety Executive shows that one in four of these cases (26%) will involve a lorry driver, making road haulage workers at extreme risk of fatal injury in the workplace.
Despite this threat to life, ENA found that over 50% of lorry drivers do not understand the proper safety requirements for working near overhead power lines.
Only 5% know to call 105 to contact the network operators for incidents involving overhead power lines. In fact, more people (7.6%) think you should call 911 – the American emergency services – if you’ve been involved in a collision.
In addition, a third of lorry drivers (36%) did not know electricity can jump small gaps which can cause a potentially fatal electric shock.
Overhead power lines have the capacity to carry voltages anywhere between 230 volts (domestic voltage) up to 400,000 volts. Even domestic voltage can be fatal and high voltage electricity can jump gaps meaning you don’t have to be in direct physical contact with a conductor to experience a fatal electric shock.
Furthermore, almost a third of lorry drivers (35%) believe the best thing to do when involved in a collision with an overhead power line is to exit the vehicle and call for help, when exiting the vehicle can actually put you at immediate risk of fatal injury.
When a vehicle or piece of machinery touches an overhead power line, it acts as a conductor passing the high voltage electricity through it. If you were to then exit your vehicle, keeping contact with it while your feet also touch the ground this voltage would pass through you, certainly causing serious injury and, in most cases, death.
To help prevent the number of fatalities amongst lorry drivers, the ENA has launched a new Look Out Look Up! film targeting those working within the industry. The thought-provoking film explores the journey of two road haulage workers carrying out a job near overhead power lines that results in a fatal accident. As well as showcasing the dangers of working near overhead power lines, the film also reveals the devastating affects these accidents can have on friends and family.
David Smith, chief executive of Energy Networks Association, said: “It’s extremely concerning to hear that even though lorry drivers are some of the most-at-risk of fatal injury involving an overhead power line, over half do not properly understand when they could be at risk. It is vital that they are supported to know how they can stay safe and call 105 immediately if there is an incident.
“That’s why we’ve launched Look Out Look Up! to highlight the campaign and created a new information film specifically for those whose work involves larger vehicles like lorries or tipper trucks.”
One person that understands the life-threatening risks facing lorry drivers working near overhead power lines is Gavin White, director of crane lorry company, GW Grab Services.
In 2018, Gavin lost a good friend, who died while performing a routine job when the vehicle he was operating collided with an overhead power receiving a fatal electric shock and leaving behind a wife and two young children.
Gavin said: “We’d known each other for almost 10 years. Working in the same industry we had a lot in common. When I found out what happened, I was really shook up. Overhead power lines are an everyday encounter for lorry drivers, yet so many of us fail to understand the life-threatening risks at stake.
“It’s hard to comprehend going to work and not coming home at the end of the day, but one small lapse in concentration can cost you your life.”