Personal Safety for Utility Workers

According to research by the Warwick Institute for Employment Research, over 450,000 are employed within the utilities sector in the UK, with this figure growing year on year. The utilities sector covers water, gas, electricity, and sewage management, with many employees working alone on a daily basis.

The sector encompasses a wide range of roles, with notable health and safety considerations, such as working in remote locations, working at height and handling potentially hazardous substances.

Dealing with the public

Many roles require employees to work with the public. For instance, service engineers visiting people’s homes to carry out repairs or installations face the risk of verbal abuse or even physical attacks. – and working in different locations each day can make it difficult for employers to keep track of exactly where their workers are, introducing additional risk. When visiting a customer’s property, employees are entering an unfamiliar environment which may be difficult to navigate in the event of an emergency, so it is key that they know the potential dangers to look out for.

Dynamic Risk Assessments are key to protecting employees in new environments. This means training staff so that they are aware of potential hazards, including unpredictable animals or individuals who may seem aggravated.

Parking close to the premises and identifying an exit route will also help to ensure the worker can get away from the property quickly if necessary. Staff should also be aware that any incident in which they are verbally abused, threatened or assaulted by a customer or member of the public should be reported.

Working in remote locations

Many employees within the utilities sector work outside in isolated or unfamiliar locations, where it is easy to become disorientated. Additionally, job roles such as rural surveyors may be required to attend unmapped areas that can often have little mobile signal, making it extremely difficult to call for help in the event of an emergency. There are a number of health and safety risks that need to be taken into consideration when staff are being asked to work in remote locations.

Providing employees means of calling for help where they might be out of mobile range is particularly important. A Buddy system can work well, – this means working to an agreed schedule, whereby a nominated person knows where each member of staff is at all times and when they should expect to hear back from them. Alternatively, the SPOT Gen3 is a robust personal safety device which operates via satellite technology, making it the ideal solution for those working in remote locations. 

Working at height

Another notable risk within utilities is working at height, whether that’s climbing scaffolding, inspecting water and gas systems at height or operating machinery off the ground, exposing workers to the risk of falls. Working at height remains one of the biggest causes of workplace injury, with statistics published by the HSE showing that 31% of all fatalities at work in 2018/19 were caused by falls from height. This can occur for a variety of reasons, from having insufficient safety measures in place to bad weather conditions.

When working off the ground it is vital that employees are provided with appropriate PPE, such as helmets and harnesses. If you are unsure of what PPE your employees should have for each particular job role, HSE guidance is a useful resource. Before working at height outside, it is also important that workers assess the weather conditions. as this can cause platforms to become slippery or unstable and increase the risk of falling. Where working in these situations is unavoidable, it may be beneficial to provide employees with a personal safety device that can detect a fall, such as our MicroGuard or Smartphone Application. These solutions can be fitted with an additional ‘fall detection’ feature, which will raise an alarm straight through to our ARC where the device detects a fall followed by non-movement.

For more guidance about how to stay safe while working at height while using MEWPs, see our previous blog post: How to Work Safely at Height Using MEWPs

Travelling between locations

Field workers are often required to visit several different locations or job sites each day, exposing them to additional risks while travelling, with information published by the road safety charity Brake stating that at least one in three (31%) fatal crashes and one in four (26%) serious injury crashes in Britain involve someone driving for work. Motor vehicle accidents are a significant cause of danger for employees due to other drivers’ unpredictable behaviour, as well as the further risks associated with driving for work, such as fatigue or travelling in a rush.

When commuting between locations employees should be encouraged to assess their ability to drive safely. Many utilities employees work long shifts and complete manual work, which can lead to fatigue and reduced ability to identify hazards while driving. To minimise this risk, workers should be encouraged to take regular breaks when they feel it is necessary. In addition, large vehicles, such as vans, can have blind spots. Employees who are expected to drive must be given appropriate guidance to reduce the risk of accidents.

How can Peoplesafe help?

Peoplesafe can help employers to fulfil their duty of care by implementing a personal safety service. Because we know that one size doesn’t fit all, we offer a range of options, allowing you to find the service best suited to your needs. Our solutions range from dedicated personal safety devices to services that can be paired with the employee’s own mobile phone, providing flexibility alongside personal safety.

Additionally, all of our devices are portable and can be paired with several accessories to transform them into discrete wearable technology, such as via a belt clip or pendant holder. This allows users to carry their alarm at all times so that it is readily available in the event of an emergency.

When an alarm is raised, an alert is sent directly to our state-of-the-art Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC), where our expertly trained Controllers can listen to the ongoing situation through the device. The Controller will listen carefully to ensure that it is safe to communicate with the user while simultaneously assessing the situation. For instance, where the user is dealing with an aggressive member of the public, the Controller will establish contact with the user (where they feel it is safe to do so)  to help diffuse the situation and follow the appropriate procedure. If they do not receive a response from the user after attempting to communicate with them, they will follow the predetermined escalation process to resolve the situation

Having a Peoplesafe device means that your employees can quickly and easily summon help from colleagues or the emergency services, while giving them the peace of mind that allows them to complete their job safely.

If you have any employees that you feel could benefit from our lone worker services, please contact our sales team on 0800 990 3563 or complete the contact us form here.